In 2003, Aishwarya Rai was the first actress to come out in the public and talk about her abusive relationship. Salman Khan, even back then, was powerful enough that he could influence producers and directors to not cast Aishwarya Rai in the movies. It’s that when she tried her luck aboard trying survive in her career as her ex-boyfriend would have not allowed her to go on in Bollywood until and unless she became his abusive wife.
In 2006, Aishwarya Rai married the son of Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan. Many said she married him for the Bachchan surname. But, the truth is she married him because she was saving herself from Salman Khan. In 2017, Kangana Ranuat during the promotion of her movie, ‘Simran’ revealed to the world how the actors in Bollywood use actresses as weapons for their own advantage as it in her case, it was Hrithik Roshan.
Time and again, actress off-screen have been beaten, abused and cheated by their male-partners and colleagues on various levels. Some reports do come out, while many remain in the film circuit. While off-screen there is violence, and cheating. It is on-screen sexism that displays the truth about Bollywood – from item songs to age gap between actors and actresses, and the end of an actresses career soon after she gets married, or when she crosses 40, or when she has kids.
In 2020, Kareena Kapoor Khan will become the first Bollywood actress to complete 20 years being a mainstream Hindi film actress who is as relevant as she was back in 2000. Over the course of last few years, feminism has become a topic of debate, and many actress have tried to project themselves as a promoter of the cause. But, have the actresses or the industry in general changed for women? No. Actresses at an older age have become more acceptable to the audience, and directors, producers and also male actors who have the power to dictate terms have let women have 20 year long careers. Many movies are being made with women in the lead roles, but are still paid less than the actors. For example, Salman Khan, 55, gets paid Rs. 50 crores plus gets half of the profit if the film does well, whereas an actress in a lead role will get only Rs. 10 crores likes of Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, and Kangana Ranuat for Padmavaat, Veere Di Wedding and Manikarnika.
What still looms large is the power held by top male actors in the industry. Actresses like Anushka Sharma, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone have opened production houses to sustain themselves in the future. They producer their own movies after marriage, Deepika Padukone has started that, with Anushka Sharma beginning it with NH10, and Priyanka Chopra in said to producer her own sit-com in the United States. While for Priyanka Chopra age is no bar, what makes trouble for her is that her career has not got a jump start.
With such moves, married actresses are fighting men in the industry with evolution of the audience where they are more acceptable for actress about her age, martial status and asking for scripts rather than romancing behind the trees irrespective of who leads the film – male or female. The question that remains how much better actors of this generation are from the previous generation? Has the hands of sexism shackled a little or actresses have to struggle a great deal with these actors as well?