Marriage, Childbirth And After
Although her pregnancy was announced sometime back, the stork is not likely to visit before November, Amitabh Bachchan had made a public statement on behalf of his daughter-in-law, Aishwarya: “It is entirely her decision. We never want to curb what she wants to do. Her working or not working will be entirely her call.” Without even bothering to ponder upon if there would be any takers. Not many Bollywood heroines have had a successful second innings, though some did make valiant attempts. Some stayed away, and picked up the make-up tray to essay character roles while others preferred to be simple homemakers. In recent times, just one Dimple Kapadia successfully crossed the invisible Lakshman Rekha. And she had just appeared in one film, Bobby before she agreed to be a child-bride.
In the current context, only Kajol has made the grade, and on her own terms, also making sure she makes the right choice. Karishma Kapoor, despite limitations, had been doing well when she chose the matrimonial doorway to make a decent exit. But ever since there have been speculations, rumours of her knocking the door. She will reportedly make a ‘comeback’ in Vikram Bhatt’s Ishq Dangerous. The grapevine also has it that Madhuri Dixit has finally given the nod for Vishal Bhardwaj’s Dedh Ishqiya to be directed by Abhishek Chaubey. How far will these dangerous dalliances, keeping in mind similar instances in the past, will go can only be a matter of speculation.
Heroines now have a very short run, and generally disappear even before they remove the grease paint. But it wasn’t always so. Meenakshi Sheshadri, Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit sensibly quit the arc lights before they were shown the studio doors, and have stayed happily married. Nothing much has been heard of Sheshadri except she is happily rearing up a family in Texas in the august company of her investment banker husband, Harish Mysore, Kendra (daughter) and Sanjosh, (son) and reliving her 15 years of stardom through her old pictures on the walls. Sridevi, ruled Bollywood for nearly two decades without outliving the ‘thunder thighs’ label, now happily lives under the shadows as producer Boney Kapoor’s second wife, and two daughters, Jhanvi and Khushi splitting time between Mumbai and Chennai. One does not really need to retrace Madhuri Dixit’s steps. The only other heroine who briefly gave them a run for money was Kimi Katkar who divorced arc lights and married photographer and ad film maker Shantanu Shorey when still on top.
There was a time in Bollywood when heroines came young, married early and continued to pursue their careers. No one raised an eyebrow, neither the viewing public nor the conservatives amongt the film makers. Most of these marriages happened within the industry. At her professional peak, Nargis married the still struggling Sunil Dutt, decided not to do films anymore but remained a part of the industry. Shyama married ace cameraman Fali Mistry at 17, and kept doing lead roles. Nimmi, dubbed as the ‘unkissed’ village belle married scriptwriter S Ali Raza. The couple was issueless. Nalini Jaywant, who died last year, married twice, first director Virendra Desai, and later actor Prabhu Dayal though she ‘supposedly’ also had a relationship with Ashok Kumar. Meena Kumari fell for writer-director Kamal Amrohi’s literary charm and went headlong into marriage with him even though he already had a family. It is believed Amrohi consciously did not wish to have an issue from her. Bina Roy married Prem Nath and quit the arc lights. Many others of their generation disappeared without a trace. There was also the classic case of Helen who first lived an uneasy life of a mistress to producer P N Arora, and then settled playing second fiddle to Salim Khan’s first wife. It is, like that of Dharmendra-Hema Malini an exemplary case of living happily ever after.
Nutan and Waheeda Rahman were exceptions to the rule as they married non-film men (someone might say it wasn’t true of the latter), Geeta Bali married Shammi Kapoor, and almost bowed out. After several affairs Madhubala eventually settled down with Kishore Kumar. Suraiya remained a celibate till the end, ditto for Nanda and Asha Parekh though they both supposedly had relationships with Nasir Husain and Manmohan Desai. Parveen Babi’s was a queer case; Zeenat was unfortunate, all her reported relationships were with married ones; Reena Roy too made the same mistake though Neetu Singh sensibly settled down with Rishi Kapoor. Not much is known of Rajshree who suddenly went away and settled in the USA, the same is said of Maadhvi. Then there were the likes of Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi who opted for married industry men, Raj Babbar and Javed Akhtar. One can go on ad nauseam.
The concept of live-in and frequently changing partners hadn’t been in vogue then, though in many senses the yesteryear heroines had been more ‘modern’ and ‘liberated’. Unlike today, there were fewer heroines, and they were talented, learning quickly on the job rather than throwing up tantrums without really being anywhere. It was not very long ago that one had to check with siblings as to who was who. They all looked the same, dressed the same, and behaved in a similar fashion. And came in and out at the same breakneck speed. What also did not exist twenty-thirty years ago was the concept of changing lovers with a drop of a pallu. They move from men to men like they change costumes, and get in different films. Someone is in today, out tomorrow. Break-ups too had been uncommon. John Abraham and Bipasha Basu split after a ten-year live-in relationship.
Contrary to all the pomp and show, the Hindi film industry is terribly conservative, almost never giving a deserving place, like Hollywood or European cinema, to a leading lady once she got married, and bore children. Despite all the hoop and hoopla, Yash Raj Films only once experimented with Madhuri Dixit. Aaja Nachle was a disaster. Would she get a third chance is a matter of conjecture, ditto for Karishma Kapoor. What eventually happens to the highly talented beautiful Aashwarya Rai Bachchan time alone will tell.
By Suresh Kohli