Star mothers

Star mothers

Do marriage and kids signify the end of the road in Bollywood for actresses? Not necessarily — the latest case in point being Aishwarya Rai, who plans to hit the studios the moment she’s taken motherhood in her stride

By Khalid Mohamed

Published: Fri 2 Dec 2011, 6:44 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:02 AM

Ever since Aishwarya Rai Bachchan became a mother on November 16, cheer and warmth are in the air. A baby girl was born to the 38-year-old actress, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, who married Abhishek Bachchan over four years ago.

After marriage, the former Miss World had continued her career, retaining her status as an A-list star, figuring in top money-spinners like Jodhaa Akbar, Guru and Robot. Her pairing on screen with her husband in J P Dutta’s Umrao Jaan and Mani Ratnam’s Raavan weren’t appreciated, though, by the masses or the mandarins. Going by official announcements, the actress will return to the studios after a few months, resuming her career with director Rajkumar Santoshi’s high-profile project Ladies and Gentlemen.

By contrast, her mother-in-law Jaya Bhaduri Bachchan had opted for self-imposed retirement from the screen after Silsila, returning with Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa after a hiatus of nearly 17 years.

KAJOL: Appears in handpicked films and consumer product advertisements, ever since she married Ajay Devgn 12 years ago

That Aishwarya, nicknamed ‘Ash’, hasn’t chosen to give up her career, is more than heartening. She is still one of the most camera-friendly faces in Bollywood. Besides, with skilfully designed projects and scripts, she could well form a charismatic pair with Abhishek, in the tradition of Dilip Kumar and his wife Saira Banu who featured in forever-cherished films like Gopi (1970) and Sagina (1974). It goes without saying, then, that the Indian movie-going audience which adores its stars, will look forward to Aishwarya striking a balance between her professional and personal life.

This is absolutely feasible, given the example of Kajol, who appears in handpicked films and consumer product advertisements, ever since she married Ajay Devgn 12 years ago.

Or take Karisma Kapur: after a break of half a decade, she has begun filming for a supernatural-themed film titled Dangerous Ishq. Kajol and Karisma have two children each, and can time-manage their everyday schedules.

Sridevi, a mother of two, is making news again, returning to the pavilion with the under-production comedy English Vinglish. Madhuri Dixit and her husband, Dr Shriram Nene, have moved from Colorado to Mumbai, both to set up full-time careers here. Raveena Tandon, was seen in Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap, after vanishing from the scene for over five years.

Motherhood and a career can mix, although the mothers’ popularity ratings do register a significant drop. Immediately described as ‘yummy mummies’ by the media, obviously they are no longer poster girls. Yet they are respected by viewers for their acting skills and track record.

Juhi Chawla points out that her heroes, Shah Rukh and Aamir Khan, team up with much younger heroines. She says, “Age, marriage and kids don’t make a difference to the heroes. The shelf-life of a heroine is practically over after marriage and motherhood. The thing is to re-invent oneself. A heroine should not be afraid of playing her age. That’s why the actress in me has been really satisfied with unconventional films like My Brother… Nikhil and Teen Deewarein.”

SRIDEVI: The mother of two is returning to the pavilion with the comedy English Vinglish

Juhi Chawla explains that once the kids start going to school, spare time weighs heavily. She adds, “Once bitten by the acting bug, it’s difficult to give it up. But for sure, one has to cut down on one’s workload, or one would end up messing things at home.”

Of the earlier generation, Nutan, Waheeda Rehman, Raakhee Gulzar, Sharmila Tagore, Hema Malini, Moushumi Chatterji, Dimple Kapadia and Sarika are the most prominent examples of real-life mothers who could revive their careers, in roles demanding shades of maturity.

Regrettably, Bollywood is also replete with instances of frontline heroines quitting the scenario soon after marriage and motherhood. Dev Anand’s heroine, then wife, Kalpana Kartik, has become stubbornly reclusive ever since her last movie appearance in Nau Do Gyarah (1957). Master filmmaker V Shantaram’s daughter Rajshree was never to be seen again after migrating to Los Angeles with her husband. Yogita Bali shunned the limelight as soon as she married Mithun Chakraborty nearly three decades ago. Yesteryear’s alluring actress Kimi Katkar shudders at the very prospect of facing the lights again and leads a sedentary life in Pune with her husband and son.

Meenakshi Seshadri, who moved to the US after marriage in 1996, appears to have retired permanently. Actively engaged in uplifting the state of neglected senior citizens, Tina Ambani née Munim has refused, for over two decades, to even discuss the faint possibility of featuring in a film or TV serial.

RAVEENA TANDON: Acted in Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap, after vanishing from the scene for a while

After an absence of some 27 years, the vivacious Neetu Singh, did show up in a cameo in Love Aajkal as well as an award-grabbing part with husband Rishi Kapoor in Do Dooni Chaar. However she has announced, “No more acting for me. I’m too lazy perhaps. I can’t wake up at early morning hours and go through the pressures and tension associated with filmmaking.”

Cut back to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Clearly, by staying in the fray, she has reaffirmed the fact that a showbiz mother can continue to be a successful career person too.

(The writer has been reviewing Bollywood since he was in diapers. He has scripted three films and directed three others. Currently, he is working on a documentary and a book of short stories.)

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