The Vulture did a brilliant analysis on how Leading Men Age, But Their Love Interests Don’t in Hollywood. They go on to show that the age of the female lead doesn’t scale linearly with the age of the male lead. For example:
In this particular criteria, Bollywood is no different from Hollywood. The age of female love-interests lies well restricted in the 20-30 years range. Let me make my case with some evidence:
- Shah Rukh Khan
- SRK had female love interests in 2 movies who were half his age: Anushka Sharma(Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) and Deepika Padukone(Om Shanti Om).
- Salman Khan
- The number of data points i.e. distinct actresses he has worked with.
- Aamir Khan
So our favourite actors have no qualms about having love-interests half their age. So that makes them creepy, right? Well, not exactly! Many actresses have marked discontinuities in their careers after they hit 30. But the above problem doesn’t justify Bollywood’s age-agnostic casting. The root of this difference between ages is that many a time the above actors have been cast to play characters much younger than themselves like Aamir Khan playing a college student in 3 Idiots, Salman Khan playing characters whose age doesn’t matter to the story in… well in any movie post-Wanted etc. But that leaves us with a more dangerous question: why aren’t female leads being cast as characters whose age differs significantly from their own? Not-so-subtle chauvinism.
But the times they are a changing. This year we have had female leads playing central characters in movies like Queen. Hopefully, directors and producers get better at casting and ten years down the line we should find multiple intersections between the two lines in the above graphs.