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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 16:18 GMT
Married actresses 'challenge' Bollywood
Aditi Govitrikar
Aditi Govitrikar: The actress is also a qualified doctor
Bollywood actress Aditi Govitrikar is starring in her first film in a rare break from the roles traditionally offered to married women, writes Suniti Singh.

Aditi Govitrikar's debut in Bollywood is a landmark in an industry which has had no room for married heroines.

"People are sceptical about married heroines because a lot of them lack in fitness and dedication to their career, but Aditi is different," said director Sushen Bhatnagar, who signed Aditi for his film Socch.

Sushen believes that there is a problem of "image" for married heroines.

"Bollywood operates on fantasy formula, where the heroine is an object of desire.

"Industry people feel that the day the fans realise there is another man in a heroine's life, she becomes less desirable," he said.

Aditi Govitrikar
Govitrikar saw a career in films as "natural progression"
Govitrika, who is also a qualified doctor and successful fashion model, won the first Mrs World title for India last year, and saw a career in films as a "natural progression".

But unlike most Indian beauty queens, Govitrikar did not have directors queuing outside her door and it was some time before she broke into films.

Married actors and actresses appear to be treated very differently in India.

Men are encouraged to get married as it is believed that a "family man" image would increase their fan-following, while actresses playing heroines are under pressure to keep their love lives under wraps.

Actress Juhi Chawla denied her marriage until she turned to production, while actors Shahrukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan could flaunt their marriages from the start.

Kajol and Shahrukh Khan
Kajol and Shahrukh Khan: Different treatment once they each got married
And the popular actress Kajol did not reveal her wedding plans until it was time to send out the cards.

"Given a chance married actresses can be as successful as unmarried ones," said Aruna Vasudev, editor of South Asian film journal, Cinemaya.

"The problem is not with the fans, but the producers who shy away from signing married women," she said.

The recent success of Kajol's film Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gum proves that marriage has not affected her popularity, but offers of roles have definitely declined.

The lack of willingness on the part of Bollywood producers to experiment with new themes further compounds the problem.

Juhi Chawla
Chawla: Denied her marriage until she turned to production
The main type of role offered to an actress in most mainstream Bollywood is that of an untouched beauty waiting to be swept off her feet by a knight in shining armour.

"The day she gets married, an actress is only offered fringe roles like that of widowed mother or a wicked sister-in-law," said Ms Govitrikar.

A classic case is that of the actress Rakhee, who played the romantic lead with actor Amitabh Bachchan in several films.

But following her marriage, she was left only with the role of mother to Amitabh's character.

Serious roles

"Leave alone marriage, a heroine is even asked to hide her boyfriends, not to smoke and drink in public so that her off-screen image does clash with characters she is offered to play in films", said director Bhatnagar.

With such limitations, a heroine's career rarely stretches to her early 30s, while a hero can easily play youthful characters until his late 40s.

But things are definitely looking up.

New-age directors like Farhan Akhtar, Meghna Gulzar and Mahesh Manjrekar are experimenting with varied themes, offering more central and serious roles to women.

'Capability'

Actresses too are becoming more insistent about their personal lives and time.

"People are realising that ultimately the success and failure of an actor or actress depends on their capability to act, not on what image they can project," said Ms Govitrikar.

And unlike many of her predecessors, Aditi has refused to deny her marriage - and will be making her debut with her 14-month-old baby in her arms.

See also:

13 Feb 02 | Business
Bollywood's hopes for Oscar dollars
06 Feb 02 | Film
Bollywood goes to LA
05 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bollywood suffers from US attacks
25 Jul 01 | Film
Cash boost for Bollywood
24 Dec 01 | Film
Bollywood blockbuster falters
26 Jun 01 | Oscars 2002
Lagaan breaks the mould
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