The thriller trailer The Return of Villain Ek was released on June 30. This Mohit Suri director is a sequel to the hit 2014 film, starring Sidharth Malhotra, Shraddha Kapoor and Riteish Deshmukh. When the film’s first look was released on Wednesday, it became clear that Bollywood continues to live in denial about its huge age gap problem between the films’ main actors. This despite the sad fate of recently released Samrat Prithviraj.
The Return of Villain EkThe cast is led by John Abraham and Arjun Kapoor, who front Disha Patani and Tara Sutaria. Abraham is 49, while his female co-star is only 30. On the other hand, Kapoor has just celebrated his 37th birthday, while Sutaria is 26 years old. The jarring gaps between the ages of the male and female leads in this film are nothing new. What’s surprising is that the filmmakers still don’t pay attention to all the backlash from the industry for such problematic casting choices.
Ek Villain’s Return Trailer
The trailer of The Return of Villain Ek builds on the notorious legacy of its prequel where a husband slaughters 18 wives because he “loves” his oppressive wife and can’t be mad at her. Here we have a killer that targets women who have one-sided lovers. “Dil tute ashikon ka maseeha ban na chahta hai“, tells us the trailer about this killer. The rest of the trailer attempts to establish that there are no heroes in this story, and we shouldn’t yet settle on who the “Ek Villain” is here. What’s clear from the trailer is that the film wears the age gap between its male and female leads on its sleeves.
When Samrat PrithvirajThe trailer for was released in May this year, social media gave a huge shout out about the film’s awkward casting choice. Akshay Kumar, 54, was cast as the Rajput king, while a 25-year-old former Miss World, Manushi Chhillar, was cast as Princess Sanyogita opposite him. The casting was one of the many reasons that turned viewers away from the magnum opus. The film was slammed by critics and viewers showed no mercy at the box office.
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Bollywood’s aversion to aging in men
Yet here we are, just two months later, watching another big budget movie that claims Bollywood men are ageless gods we’ll worship as long as they keep flexing their muscles and can fight 20 men in one breath. The idea that men don’t age is rooted in the toxic idea of masculinity that our society and pop culture have fed us for decades. Mard kabhi boodha nahi hota, we have often heard, implying that men remain virile forever. According to society, this is what makes men indispensable and attractive even after their youth when an older woman needs to be ousted from the spotlight. She either has to focus on her roles as wife and mother or society labels her as unattractive after a certain age, shifting the focus to younger women.
Doesn’t this explain why as soon as women reached their thirties, or got married and had children, they were reduced to playing bhabhis, mothers, aunts and sisters of the evergreen heroes of the past? Who can forget how Amitabh Bachchan’s co-stars Waheeda Rahman and Rakhee were later cast as his mother and bhabhi in movies like Coolie and Chaan respectively?
But times have changed now, at least for women in the industry. Actors like Kareena Kapoor Khan and Sushmita Sen are still directing movies and web shows despite having years of motherhood on their backs. They get substantial roles that not only focus on their talent, but aren’t devoid of glamour. So finally getting old is sexy for Bollywood women. But industry leaders? Well that’s another story.
Most prominent men in their 40s and 50s are chasing six packs and the macho image they created for themselves during the 1990s and the following decade. As a result, these men are cast in action movies that require them to display a level of fitness and youthfulness that makes them desirable to women and role models to male viewers. In such films, the focus is not on humanizing the characters, but on unleashing the mythic aura around aging superstars in an attempt to spark a fan frenzy that leads to greater theater attendance. .
However, attendance is gradually dwindling and audiences want to pay to be entertained – the glorified avatars of aging superstars aren’t enough to motivate them to shell out their hard-earned cash. More than anything else, the film industry understands the language of profit and loss. So one can only hope that viewers continue to question films that promote a toxic idea of masculinity. This is the only way for Bollywood films to bridge the age gap between the main couple(s).
The opinions expressed are those of the author.