Almost a generation apart

The age gap between the lead actor and actress seems to be only widening over the years

Ever since the beginning, the Hindi film industry is known to be male-dominated. No wonder that after a point in time, younger faces have been paired with actors, once the established actresses have crossed the 30-years mark.

Sonakshi Sinha (24 yrs) and Akshay Kumar (43 yrs) in Joker

Besides, a newer girl adds to the novelty in the lead pair, and consequently increases curiosity about the movie.

So it's not surprising that 26-year-old Deepika Padukone was the first choice as Saif Ali Khan's heroine for the makers of Cocktail and Race 2, while Asin, also 26, was the first choice for Bol Bachchan toplining 42-year old Ajay Devgn and Thanedaar Returns featuring 52-year-old Sanjay Dutt.

Glamour quotient

While not exactly conceding that a pair's novelty wears off after a few films, Ramesh Taurani, producer of Race and its forthcoming sequel maintains that actresses like Rani Mukerji, who has worked with the three 45-year old Khans - Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh - is doing very well on her own. "Like in No One Killed Jessica, or Madhuri Dixit in Aaja Nach Le.

Salman Khan (46 yrs) and Katrina Kaif (27 yrs) in Ek Tha Tiger

In fact, they're doing women-oriented films," he points out, adding that Katrina (now 27) and Deepika certainly add the glamour quotient. "In Race and Race 2, we needed a comparatively newer girl. A new casting brings a different freshness to the film."

Novelty factor
In the same vein, Sajid Khan, director of Housefull and Housefull 2 asserts that he's always believed in fresh combination.

Saif Ali Khan (41 yrs) and Deepika Padukone (26 yrs)

"From my viewpoint, I want to give the audience something they haven't seen earlier. So Housefull was the first film Deepika signed opposite Akshay Kumar (43) while Heyy Babyy was his first movie with Vidya Balan (then 29). The novelty of a new pair is different from a star combination you seen before," he states.

Fresh approach
On the other hand, distributor Suniel Wadhwa points out that a different pair is important when the actor has three-four films in a year.
"Like Akshay Kumar, who has Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore and Joker (both with the 24-year-old Sonakshi Sinha) lined up this year.

Sanjay Dutt (52 yrs) and Kangna Ranaut (24 yrs)

Last year he had Patiala House with Anushka Sharma (23) and Thank You with Sonam Kapoor (25). So it's essential for him to have a different heroine in each movie," he explains, adding that Shah Rukh Khan's next is Yash Chopra's return to direction after Veer-Zaara.
"Back then, Rani (26 then) and Preity Zinta (then 29) were at the top. But now Rani (32 now) has a different image after No One Killed Jessica.
YRF is looking for universal appeal, so Katrina and Anushka are apt for the film with SRK. Like Mere Brother Ki Dulhan was targeted more towards the mass audience than the multiplexes," he sums up.

Shorter shelf life

However, S Kumar Mohan, one of the producers of Sanjay Dutt's Thaanedaar Returns, attributes it to age catching up with the actresses.

Ajay Devgn (42 yrs) and Asin (26 yrs)

"Heroines have a limited age in acting. And whether the hero has a hit or a flop with a heroine, he wants to be paired up with a different face each time.

Also, a fresh pair with a newer actress adds to the glamour quotient and also increases the audience curiosity," he observes.

Equally upfront is Manoj Desai, executive director of Maratha Mandir, G7 Cineplex in Mumbai, as he says that age of an actress shows on the face.
"Age never spares anyone. So sometimes over-repetition of a pairing may cause a loss in novelty value. Besides, the audience likes to see a different combination on screen," he states.

Hero-oriented industry

To sum it up, Sajid Khan doesn't shy away from attributing this trend to the male-dominance in the industry. "Both Hollywood and Bollywood are hero-oriented industries.

Although of late, heroines have been getting their due abroad and here, no heroine can make a film run on her own steam the way a hero can.

While the heroine-oriented subjects are exceptions, they form only a small number of the movies made every year," he concludes.

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