Film industries across the world are extremely male-dominated, which allows for very little creative freedom for actresses who don’t fit a certain mould or are past a certain age, which in this case is 40. But The Times They Are a-Changin, and these brilliant actresses are proof of that.
1. Sushmita Sen
Sushmita Sen has been an actor since the 90s but it is widely accepted that her best performance to date has been in the web series Aarya, which had been nominated in the Best Drama Series category at the Emmy’s.
2. Shefali Shah
Make no mistake, Shefali Shah has always understood the assignment but her career has gained prominence in the last decade with stellar performances in shows like Delhi Crime and Juice. The roles for women after 40 has diversified unlike we could have imagined with the advent of streaming platforms and Shah has been one of the prime beneficiaries of that welcome change.
3. Surekha Sikri
The late Surekha Sikri had been a prominent name in the Indian theatre scene for decades and rightfully so. Every role she’s taken on, be it the grandmother in Balika Vadhu to being the grandmother in Badhai Ho, Sikri had always given the audience a performance to remember.
4. Neena Gupta
Neena Gupta is a firebrand of an actress and it shows in every performance she has delivered throughout her career. But, as it is with Indian cinema, the roles for women over 40 have been incredibly diverse in the last decade, a phenomenon synonymous with Gupta’s career. Of course, she has been an acclaimed actress all her career but the last decade has seen her take on a variety of roles in films like Bhadhai Ho and Mulk and absolutely steal every scene she’s in.
5. Sheeba Chaddha
You have seen her play supporting roles for years and there’s a reason you remember her little roles. She’s excellent and eases into any character she’s playing, a seamless transition that is rare in this day and age. And as we have discussed in the previous points, the fact that we have more stories about women at different points in their lives, unique roles and stories that are being told means, that Chaddha simply has a lot more screentime to share her brilliance with us, be it in films in Badhai Ho, or Paglait or even in OTT shows like Mirzapur.
6. Viola Davis
Viola Davis is one of the finest actresses of our generation or actually, any generation. But America is very very, and I can’t stress this enough, racist. Because there is no other reason an actress of her calibre didn’t have as many opportunities in her 20s and 30s as her peers. That said, Davis has given award-winning performances over and over again in shows like How to Get Away with Murder and movies like The Help, Fences, Widows, Prisoners, to just name a few.
7. Laverne Cox
The Orange Is the New Black star has given so many memorable performances in the last decade and a half that even the IMDb page literally says, “Holy F**k, She’s So Gooood”. Just kidding, it’s just what I said while researching for this article. But it might as well say that.
8. Sandra Oh
Sandra Oh has always been a popular face for her role in Grey’s Anatomy but it’s Eve Polastri in the spy thriller series Killing Eve that has made her the fan favourite status she enjoys these days. More power to her and hope she keeps getting these roles and keeps churning out banger performances for as long as she wishes to act.
9. Sofia Vergara
We all love Sofia Vergara. She has always been a successful model but the more you read about her struggle as a young actress in Hollywood, the more you begin to respect her. That is one fighter of a woman, a trait she shared with Gloria, her character on Moden Family, that not only made her the funniest woman on TV but also the highest-paid.
It’s not easy for actresses over 40 to get roles, the system is just designed that way. It is highly sexist and thus very reductive of women’s abilities and only views them as certain figures, especially if you are a part of a primitive film industry, like Bollywood. That said, these women have proven time and again, that age doesn’t limit talent and hopefully things keep changing for the better.