They have spunk. They have style. They have Instagram accounts. And they are here to stay. A whole batch of Indian women over 50 have made grand entries upon the social media stage. They are what internet bugs call ‘influencers.’
Once a playground reserved for young fashionistas, Instagram influencing is witnessing a wave of new entrants – like these older women – who are breaking new ground with every post. At an age when society expects them to fit into definitions of sombre, elderly women, they are defying norms and naysayers by going where the passions of their hearts lead them.
Some are painting, some are dressing up, dancing, others are handing out life experiences and yet others, delicious recipes. Here are 6 older Indian influencers over the age of 50 you should be following:
1. Rajini Chandy
Home-maker turned actor Rajini Chandy began 2021 by setting fire to Instagram with kickass pictures from her photoshoot. The 69-year-old, in a series shot by photographer Athira Joy, was seen wearing everything from sarees, ripped jeans, denim dresses, to jumpsuits.
Chandy, who made her debut in Malayalam films at 65 and then appeared on Bigg Boss, told BBC, “I’m just doing what brings me pleasure. I’m learning to play the drum, I’m not aiming for perfection, I’m just having fun… I believe it’s okay to do whatever you want as long as you’re not hurting anyone.”
The internet, however, vicious as ever was not all too kind to Chandy. Her feed was bombarded with comments pulling her down and slut-shaming her for a “photoshoot too sexy for her age.” It apparently came as a rude shock to people when Chandy ditched her saree for a dress. “It’s worse because it shows my legs,” she said. But as cool as she is, Chandy added, “But I have good legs, so it didn’t really bother me.”
2. Manjri Varde
Manjri Varde, popular alternatively as actor Sameera Reddy’s mother-in-law, boasts of a colourful Instagram feed splashed with paints and merrymaking. The 64-year-old painter creates a range of abstract, divine, and traditional art, giving over 65K followers a glimpse into her creative world.
Her label Samanjri promotes ‘wearable art,’ a comfortable combination of various fabrics, calligraphies, and poetic chants that are all her creations. On Instagram, however, Varde is best known as one half of the Sassy Saasu-Messy Mama duo, the other half comprising her daughter-in-law.
Shattering a ton of negative stereotypes that surround saas-bahus in India, Varde and Reddy through their mimicry and dance videos are setting new standards of how amiable an in-law relationship can be.
With a mother-daughter camaraderie, the two collaborate on dances and challenges (albeit not without some leg-pulling).
3. Chinna Dua
Dr Padmavati Dua, or Chinna Dua as the internet lovingly knows her, is perhaps one of the ultimate authorities online on sarees and the art of draping them to put together a graceful look. She may also be familiar as the mother of rising comedian Mallika Dua, but she is an independent force to reckon with on social media.
As a recognisable face and intrinsic part of the online conversation on Indian handloom, she has amassed a 36K-strong following that depends on her as the chief authority on the elaborate skill of dressing up. If ever you’re in a dilemma over how best to match a blouse to a saree, bindi, down to the potli, you need only turn to her Instagram.
Talking to SheThePeople, Dr Dua says, “I am a people’s person. I like to be complimented and I’m also very lavish with my compliments. Because why shouldn’t we do something that’s bringing happiness? And self-love is important. If you don’t love yourself, how do you expect the world to love you?” As an avid user of Instagram and Facebook both, she does not feel age as a restriction to her interests.
Considering her passions that lie even in baking, singing, and medicine, she says, “It’s all about wanting to learn more. There is no end to learning. It’s all about an attitude. I may be 60, but in my mind, I’m still 16.”
4. Poonam Sapra
To Instagrammers, Poonam Sapra is known simply as ‘Mother with Sign.’ Turning every desi maa’s infamous taunts and tricks into messages on cardboard signs, Sapra has taken on the role of an online mother hen to everyone who visits her profile.
At 156K followers, her Instagram feed is full of advice – some motivational, some supportive, some good ol’ motherly quips. Without being too preachy, board-wielding Sapra manages to hand over nuggets of inclusivity, acceptance, and positivity to the youth trying to make the world a better, safer place.
Women Over 50 Who Are Rocking The Influencer Scene.
One board reads: “Round rotis don’t decide whether you get married or not. You do.” Another simply reads: “Smile.” But my favourite is: “God help anyone who disturbs my afternoon nap.” Sapra’s page was initially started by her son Pranav, a popular funnyman on the internet.
When his mom came to Instagram last year, he wrote, “My mom keeps telling me things, so I made her an Instagram account.” And look, the things she’s telling us now is lighting up our feeds!
5. Ravi Bala Sharma
Ravi Bala Sharma has only a few posts to her name, but her following stands magnificently at 114K followers – a testament to how true talents value quality over quantity. At 62, the dancing dadi is breaking a leg to Punjabi tracks with as much ease as she is to traditional numbers.
Sharma on her Instagram feed can be seen grooving to everything from the fast-paced Pinga to the melancholic Moh Moh Ke Dhaage. Her dance to Diljit Dosanjh’s G.O.A.T. had gone viral and earned her praise from the singer too. Her bio, as lively as her performances, reads: “62 & still making my birthday wishes!”
Formerly a teacher, Sharma says her kathak mentor was her father. As per her feed, she is even professionally trained in tabla. After retirement, she is now pursuing her recreational interests, setting new milestones for herself as well as all other older women watching her. Sharma’s videos, noted for their grace and effortless movement, have even caught the interest of choreographers like Terence Lewis.
6. Kanan Bala
Kanan Bala, popularly known on Instagram by her moniker Mama K, is a food wizard with magic in her hands to whip up everything from traditional everyday meals to the most exquisite artisan dishes. At over 25K followers, her drool-worthy feed looks like culinary heaven, displaying an assortment of treats plated in a way that is both stylish and homely.
Bala’s Instagram, with its quintessential maa ke haath ka khana offers an immediate sense of comfort and belonging to those who visit it. From flower and berry ice drinks to poori aloo, you name it, she has it. The best part is that much of the veggie content is organic, grown in her own premises.
Kishi Arora, her daughter who is a professional pastry chef, tells SheThePeople, “She makes really good food. I would sometimes share the food she made on my own account, and it used to get a lot of traction. Which is why I thought she should have her own page. That’s how her Instagram account was born.”
She adds, “further, we started her catering under the Mama K Treats label – because I call her Mama K. And now she loves Instagram because it’s like an extended family to her. She really enjoys it. It has been a wonderful, positive community for her to be in. There’s no barrier for her in it.“
7. Waheeda Rehman
Though not active herself on social media, Waheeda Rehman often pops up on Instagram with appearances on her daughter Kashvi Rekhy’s feed. The yesteryear actor, known for legendary Hindi films like Guide, Khamoshi, CID, and Kaagaz ke Phool, in her 80s has taken to nurturing her passions outside of the acting sphere.
Aside from being a wildlife photographer with training, and having travelled across India and Africa on projects, 83-year-old Rehman also maintains a keen interest in water sports.
Photos of her snorkelling with her daughter in the Andamans recently surfaced online, in which the actor could be seen exploring the deep waters of the ocean in Havelock island. Read more about it here.
Although Rehman is still high on glamour from her 1960s and 70s cinema prominence, reminiscing about it during public appearances, she hasn’t let that starry status or her age become a deterrent to enjoying other interests in life. She has said she even plans on seeking training in scuba diving.
Views expressed are the author’s own.