Women Over 40 In Films And OTT 2021: Over the years most of us have vehemently pointed a finger at the fact that after certain age women in cinema move to the background as mothers, mothers in law, friends, elder sisters and so on. Many actors, themselves, have talked about this double standard that women actors play mothers to male actors for whom they once played the ‘love interest’. However, things seem to be changing and women actors above the age of 40 play important roles in Bollywood.
This year saw Sushmita Sen, Raveena Tandon, Pooja Bhatt to Shefali Shah playing characters that held power and steered the stories narrative. Kajol played the character of a mother in a story about women and the relationships between them. This shift is not just changing how we view women of a particular age but also better the narrative giving it a more realistic tone where women above 40 have more stories and complexities than a ‘lachar ma (poor mother).’
Here is a list of such women actors who gave us artistic, critically-acclaimed and nuanced performances this year:
Sen was a popular actor in the 90s with an impressive filmography. She has been part of films like Biwi No 1, Filhaal, Main Hoon Na amongst others and acted with actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and other big names in Bollywood. She debuted in Bollywood with Mahesh Bhatt’s thriller film Dastak and went on to prove herself further. In 1994, she also won the title of Miss Universe. Even after many box office hits, she disappeared from the silver screen for a long time until Aarya happened on June 19, 2020.
The series is based on the Dutch series and revolves around Aarya played by Sushmita Sen, who turns from a mother to a mafia queen to protect her kids and take revenge on her husband’s death. Aarya Season 2 came out on Disney+ Hotstar on December 10 this year.
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The 47-year-old actor made her debut on the small screen by playing a Himachali cop in the web series Aranyak. It was about three decades ago that Raveena Tandon debuted in Hindi cinema with GP Sippy’s film Pathar Ke Phool, which also starred Salman Khan. The Dulhe Raja and Bade Miya Chote Miya actor in an interview with The Hindu said that she likes playing different characters and was waiting since her last film in 2017 for the right script like Aranyak to come along. The series is a murder mystery revolving around the death of a tourist and a local cop.
The actor was recently seen in the reprise of 2005 film of her Bunty Aur Babli. She acted opposite Saif Ali Khan and the cast includes Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari Wagh. Mukerji and Khan play the original Bunty and Babli while Chaturvedi and Wagh play the new age Bunty Babli. The plot revolves is the old couple getting back in the con business to prove their worth in front of the new-age ones. Mukerji has one more project lineup for release called Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway. The actor made her debut in cinema with the Bengali film Biyer Phool in 1996, which was directed by her father Ram Mukherjee.
The Dilwale Dhulhania Le Jayenge fame Kajol has been part of many cult films. In January this year, Kajol starring Tribhanga relased. It also included actors like Mithali Palkar and Tanvi Azmi. The film aspired to tell the story of three generations of women in a household. The film marked the debut of Renuka Shahane as a director. Kajol made her debut as an actor in the year 1992 with the film Bekhudi at the age of 17.
According to her social media uploads of film shooting, promotions and travel, this entire year has been busy for actor Shefali Shah. Last year in November, her show Delhi Crime won an Emmy. In 2021 she was part of the Netflix anthology Ajeeb Daastaans, where she played the role of the mother of a child with hearing impairments. The actor is working on a project with Alia Bhatt, Darlings, Doctor G with Ayushmann Khurrana and on the second season of Delhi Crime. The 49-year-old actor does not mind being picky when it comes to projects and is okay with her not doing too many shows or films. To date, she has only 15 films.
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The actor recently won many awards for her performance in the film Sheer Qorma which is directed by Faraz Ansari and shows a love story between Swara Bhasker’s character and Divya Dutta’s. Not only that, Azmi has been part of a Disney+ Hotstar show called the Empire. The show is a historical period drama and includes Azmi as Esan Dawlat. The 71-year-old actor made her debut in 1974 with the film Ankur, which was Shyam Benegal’s directorial debut too.
The actor played a role opposite Swara Bhaskar in Sheer Qorma directed by Faraz Ansari. The film, amongst the many awards it is winning in film festivals across the globe, won the Best Short film at the Connecticut LGBTQ Film Festival. The film tells the story of same-sex love between Bhaskar and Dutta’s character and earlier this year also premiered at the BAFTA Qualifying Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival. Dutta debut in Hindi cinema in the year 1994 with the film, Ishq Mein Jeena Ishq Mein Marna, alongside Saif Ali Khan.
Her comeback to the small screen was marked by the woman-centric film Bombay Begums. She also played a cameo in Sadak 2 which released in 2020. Bombay Begums, directed by Alankrita Srivastava, is a show about five women from different sections of the society battling their fate and patriarchy to emerge as ‘Queens of Bombay.’ The 49-year-old actor played the lead role in the film. Bhatt has also produced films like Tamanna, Dushman and Zakhm. Bhatt has been one of the fierce actors of Bollywood and vocal about her past and addiction to drugs, and her resort to abstinence in December 2016.