The path fixed by the patriarchal society for a woman is simple: be an adaarsh beti first, a sanskaari bahu then and a balidaani maa later. That’s it. That’s the stuff you have to do, and you’ll be the sundar-sushil-naari before you know it. And thus followed the film industry closely behind.
For the longest time, actresses have been pushed to the sidelines as soon as they hit a certain age. Senior actresses are often given the role of sacrificial mothers or repressive housewives, and almost never have a chance to play pivotal roles.
However, with changing narratives, we found senior actresses playing roles that were outside the norm. Here are 10 such actors who did movies that proved the age factor wrong.
1. Dimple Kapadia in Tandav
In the web series, Dimple Kapadia plays the role of an ambitious senior politician and associate of the Prime Minister. Ruthless and conniving in ways ‘moms’ never are, she shifts from the trope of a sacrificing mother and, in fact, challenges her own son in the game of poiltics.
2. Ratna Pathak in Lipstick Under My Burkha
Contrary to popular belief, rather myth, that women of an older age don’t (and shouldn’t) have physical desires, Ratna Pathak’s character in the film Lipstick Under My Burkha talks of rediscovering sexual desires as a woman in her 60s. She plays the role of a matriarch, who is free-spirited, as she wants adventure and newness in life.
3. Sridevi in English Vinglish
At an age when most women are given blink and miss appearances, Sridevi played the protagonist in a movie that talked about redefining oneself. She plays a woman who breaks out of the shackles of her household confinement and experiences new things, from a romantic attraction outside her marriage, to finding her worth, she learns-unlearns along the way.
4. Tanvi Azmi in Tribhanga
While the movie revolves around three generations of women who have a blood relationship, Tanvi Azmi plays the role of a feisty, non-conformist writer who learns to embrace herself towards the end of the movie. Though women are expected to be good mothers who leave their career and ambitions for their kids, Tanvi’s character challenged this idea.
5. Supriya Pathak in Ram Leela
Supriya Pathak plays the role of a fearsome matriarch who acts as the chieftain of the community. Terrifying, bold and with a will that is not affected by any male power, she plays the ultimate leader who domineers over everyone, including her own daughter, as she acts as a toxic (and scary) mother.
6. Neena Gupta in Badhaai Ho
Neena Gupta plays the role of a woman who goes beyond society’s expectations and norms, as the movie tackled pregnancy at a senior age. She experiences the ridicule of society and her family because of her choice, but stands her ground in the face of adversity.
7. Shabana Azmi in Sheer Qorma
Shabana Azmi in the film Sheer Qorma, on LGBTQ+ families plays the role of the matriarch of a family who struggles to accept her non-binary child, their wife and the relationship. Beautifully tackling the relationships that are not heteronormative, the actor had a strong presence in the family dynamics of the family.
8. Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
The Oscar-winning actor Emma Thompson did an intimate scene in the movie Good Luck to You, Leo Grande at an age when women are expected to play the role of a mother who has no desires. The sex-positive movie revolves around a widowed teacher who hires a male escort in the hope of having an orgasm for the first time, starting the conversation about sexual desires at an “older age”.
9. Neena Gupta in Khujli
The short film Khujli talks about the sexual desires and passion of a woman at an older age. Neena Gupta plays the role of a middle-class housewife, working to spice up her sex life, with utmost grace. Because sexual desires, and the wish to experiment, are not things determined by age.
10. Meryl Streep in Don’t Look Up
Meryl Streep has been breaking the norm since her role as a tough boss in The Devil Wears Prada, and she did it again in the film Don’t Look Up. The actor portrays the role of a deliciously evil and psychopathic President of the United States, which she does brilliantly, breaking away from the norm of a male antagonist in a sci-fi movie.
There are a few roles that senior actresses are given that use their full potential, things are changing now with more diverse stories and characters being brought to life. Age is actually just a number, and we would love to see more older actresses acing roles that are away from the norm.