Malayalam superstar Mammooty recently posted a photograph of his with actors Urvashi, Banupriya, Saranya and Jyothika on Facebook. The picture, which has been doing the rounds on social media ever since, is believed to have been taken at the shooting spot for "Magalir Mattum", Jyothika's next film.
Mammooty a hero, his yesteryear heroines 'old women': Ageist prejudices of cinema and fans
The sexist and misogynistic comments were made on a picture Mammooty recently shared on Facebook.
Features Cinema Thursday, October 27, 2016 - 14:19
However, while Mammooty fans are delighting about their ikka's photograph and celebrating his "youthful" appearance, many of the comments are also derogatory towards the female actors in the picture, especially the ones who used to be his heroines.
One user says "A young man in the midst of ammakkilikoodu (a group of old moms)". Another goes, ""Heroines of yesteryears with the evergreen actor. Now he is acting with their daughters!"
While it's true that in our country, heroes routinely act with women who are decades younger than them, is this a cause for celebration? These fans think it is: "heroines will keep changing, (newer ones will come), but hero will be our mammookka"; "Ikka has enough youth left in him to do more of all the characters he did with these women"; "Mammookka superrrrr ur heroines may become older but you are still the Shining Sun."
There are many more such comments referring to the women as "kilavigal" (old women) and comparing their appearance to Mammooty's. While it's true that Mammooty looks good for his age, it's the misogynistic nature of film industries across the country that makes it necessary for the heroine to look 20 at the most. This comment by a user, "these are the women who are likely to act as Mammootty's mother in the near future" might even come true but that will not be a proud moment for cinema.
The women who played Mammooty's heroines in his earlier films, the ones in the picture, are powerhouses of talent. The reason they stopped doing lead roles was because scripts are rarely written for female characters, especially older ones. Just as Mammooty would look absurd playing a college boy, so would they if they pretended to be 20.
But while Mammooty gets projects that feature him as an older man in a lead role, such stories are hard to come by for an aging heroine. They are pushed into doing "character" roles as soon as they cross 35 (and even that is considered 'ancient'). The selective ageism in film industries is because the audience, too, prefers to see only young women playing the lead role. Because the lead role is often about their beauty and glamour and nothing else. The comments made by people on the photograph, men and women, is testimony to that.
How many wonderful films have we lost because an Urvashi wouldn't get enough heroine-centric films? How many stories don't get told because women-oriented subjects are not "mass" enough? Something to think about even as we celebrate the "haritha nayagans" around us.
Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.