There has been a recent slate of young actresses who are at the pinnacle of their careers defying the age old expectation of what an actress’ image should be and getting married, lately. Iqra Aziz, Sajal Aly, Aiman Khan and Sarah Khan just recently, to name a few and Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra in India. This is a refreshing change and a reveals society’s evolution in the right direction.
So like, there are a lot of young actresses who’re at the peak of their careers, getting married
Not to forget we already saw Anushka Sharma and Sonam Kapoor get hitched. Now, why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s because this shows a shift in attitude towards women in the entertainment industry getting married and continuing to be successful power players.
This has not been the case, historically, where actresses have always been expected to just retire and live a life as “dutiful mothers and wives” after getting married. This attitude toward actresses has prevailed toward working women in virtually all industries who are expected to stop working professionally because the man is seen as a breadwinner. There was, and still is, a lot of pressure on women to stop everything they’re doing professionally after marriage, as it’s considered a woman’s ‘duty’ to focus on the home after marriage.
Let’s take a step back into Bollywood history and the expectations from young actresses, historically, shall we?
Ranbir Kapoor’s mom, Neetu Singh, was a child star in Bollywood, with hopes of getting larger roles as she got older. She married Rish Kapoor at the age of 21, effectively ending her career. Neetu did do small cameos in recent times, however, that does not compare to the opportunities she would have had otherwise. Neetu, however, does not ever say that she felt pressure to leave, she claims that for her, family was more important.
Another example is Nargis Dutt, who became a superstar in India after her leading role in ‘Mother India.’ The actress then went on to marry Sunil Dutt, after which she shifted her focus from acting to being a housewife and involving herself in some social projects.
Even this side of the border, Noor Jehan, is an iconic example of a powerful, successful woman being forced to leave her profession for the sake of her marriage
Noor Jehan had three children from her first marriage with Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. After her divorce, she married Ejaz Durrani, who was about 9 years younger to her. Multiple sources claim that Rizvi had asked Madam to leave the acting industry, and she obliged, her last film (in a lead role) then being ‘Mirza Ghalib’ which released in 1961. She officially left acting in 1963 and continued to focus on her singing. At this time she had six children to raise.
This trend has permeated through the years with the constant fixation over women to “settle down”
The likes of Babita, Twinkle Khanna, Saira Bano, and Gayatri Joshi are just some of the actresses that fall in this list of shining female stars who had to leave acting to ‘settle down’. These actresses had either gotten their big break, or were on the verge of becoming hits, but then got married, turning their backs on Bollywood.
The same expectation of “settling down” for men hasn’t meant that they will leave their careers or “tone it down” after marriage
Men have traditionally been seen as breadwinners of a family unit hence the pressure to leave their profession has never been as pronounced for them. While a wife is expected to “tame” a man, he isn’t expected, by the media and public, to provide anything but economic contribution hence the lack of the same pressure as on women.
Marriage also hasn’t historically been taken as a factor in the decrease in popularity for men whereas for women it has always been understood as a major contributor in why actresses stopped being “top stars” after their marriage.
Anushka, Sonam, Deepika, and Priyanka are A-listers in Bollywood and them getting married while still being working actresses should change the perception
They’ve had great careers and have expressed their intention to keep working post-shaadi, and that’s GREAT. This just means that women, especially actresses, feel more empowered to be able to break the societal norm and do what they love to do. Such moves could also prove that younger couples see their economic and emotional contribution to the family as equal view themselves as independent individuals, rather than one person bringing home the money and the other to “look after the home”, by default.
In Pakistan, we’ve seen the emergence of such a trend, however, it is much slower. For example, we had the marriage of Farhan Saeed and Urwa Hocane. Urwa was given the freedom to choose between her career and her family. It was more acceptable for her to go on with her acting career and work on her movies. Likewise, we have Danish and Ayeza, who both got married at the peak of their careers. Ayeza, over the years, seems to have found a balance between her work and personal life, occasionally taking leaves of absence to take care of her children, only to return stronger and bolder.
Similarly, the likes of Iqra Aziz, Sajal Aly, Sarah Khan, Urwa Hocane and Aiman Khan have all gotten married at what are arguably the heights of their careers
Economic incentive to keep on working, being empowered enough to understand their worth, being aware of their power to influence change and having male partners who are supportive of their wives could be some factors that may have led to A-list actresses realizing that their worth, and their ‘brand’, is sustained if they continue to work in public life.
The cost of letting that go, simply because you get married is too high and, honestly, it also seems rather absurd. The logical conclusion of such an argument may just be chalked out to women feeling empowered enough to take the narrative of their lives in their own hands.
Marriage does not have to equal a Bollywood actress’s career ending. Thanks to changing times and empowered women taking charge of their agency, marriage has become less of a hindrance and more of a stepping stone. Anushka Sharma exemplifies this. She was a superstar before she got married, but afterward, not only did her and her husband become a power couple, they’ve opened themselves up to work opportunities for themselves as a couple.
India has been seeing a wave of women empowerment, which includes the recent rise of the #MeToo movement in the country. Bollywood actresses have had to step up in terms of demanding an equal space in the industry, as well as creating a safe space. One can only hope that their attitudes regarding marriage, and duties in the household, as well as their views on the position of women, rub off on the masses. Actors and actresses have great influence over people due to their celebrity status, the only question is, how long will such a mentality take to permeate throughout society?
Cover image via: @abdulsamadzia / Instagram