There is a quotable quote that turns up often in pieces about lack of equality between the sexes: A woman has to work twice as hard a man to be thought of as half as good.
This was proved right in the media response to recent releases, Wanted and Dil Bole Hadippa!. The first meant to be a comeback for Salman Khan after a row of flops, the other for Rani Mukherji for the same reason. One is not even debating the relative merits (or lack thereof) of the two films, just the post mortem in the media.
Everybody is busy pushing Salman back on the pedestal from where he had fallen off, and pulling Rani down from the little stool she had managed to clamber on to after years of hard work, and a decent body of films.
There is no point even ruing the ageism—it is rampant in the industry anyway—by which a woman at 31 (if the 21 March 1978, birth date on the net is correct) is old and haggard, and how dare she star with an actor, Shahid Kapoor, who is just three years younger than her (if the 25 February 1981 birth date is correct). But a male star who is almost 45, has lost hair and has bags under his eyes, can act like a young dude, opposite Ayesha Takia who is 21 years younger than him. This kind of sexism is endemic, across the board, including Hollywood, where Sandra Bullock is pilloried for starring with a slightly younger Ryan Reyolds, while old doddering male stars romance actresses young enough to be their grand-daughters; Madonna’s face is examined minutely and if she has no wrinkles, she is trying to hold on to her youth and that is necessarily a bad thing for a woman!
But back on home turf, Salman who used to treat the media with utter contempt is suddenly doing the wooing with a vengeance act. So everybody now loves the ‘Bad Boy’; while Rani’s crime is that she is supposedly dating Aditya Chopra, bossing around at Yashraj Studios, not laying out the red carpet for the media, and doing yoga to lose weight—and that is a sure sign of desperation, right?
So now it all boils down to PR and media management, celebrating hits before the figures even come in; often fudging those figures and, from what one hears about some big production houses, arm-twisting to prevent correct box-office figures and true extent of losses from coming out.
It is showbiz, a certain amount of showmanship and make-believe is okay, but when everybody gangs up against a target, just because she is female, it’s not right. No actress deserves brickbats if a film bombs, except for a bad performance; they don’t control their films, they don’t have the power to choose directors, writers, co-stars like male stars do, they are forced to pick the best from the lousy roles offered to them, and paid a fraction of the fees for equal or sometimes more work. So cut the girls some slack, okay?