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Boyz To Men

Friday, December 09, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

A few decades ago, a fifty plus actor would think nothing of romancing a twenty-something actress. The filmmaker would think nothing of it and the audience wouldn’t bat an eyelid. So when Dear Zindagi with Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt was announced, it was assumed that they would be paired romantically in an older man-younger woman story.

So, it came as somewhat of a surprise when it turned out that he played a therapist, Dr Khan closer to his real age. He played that part with a mix of seriousness and playfulness, by letting his grey hair show and not even pretending to be younger. There was no hint of a romance between the two, as he treated her with an avuncular gentleness. Unlike the image of shrinks in films, he was not a buttoned-up bore, which is probably why the character played by Alia was drawn to him. A less confident director would have ended the film with a romance and a conventional happily-ever-after ending, since the young woman seemed to be looking for the stability an older man offered. Whatever other flaws the film may have had, at least it was not predictable in this matter.

However, it was noteworthy that the most popular romantic hero of his generation, did not have a love interest, just a vague back story about an estranged wife and kid.

From the glimpses of Raees seen in promos, Shah Rukh Khan plays a gangster, quite off his comfort zone.  Not a sophisticated Don kind of character, but a pathani clad, bespectacled, man-of-the-streets kind of guy, who boasted of a 'baniye ka dimaag and miyabhai ka daring' in an earlier promo, that has probably been changed to accommodate today’s thin-skinned times. Which probably goes to indicate that the star has grown up and decided that he didn’t want to woo women in conventional ways all his life.  The drubbing his Dilwale got, might have caused that shift.

The other superstar Aamir Khan, who had played a teenager at forty plus in 3 Idiots, has graduated to doing the part of a father to teenaged girls in the forthcoming Dangal.

The only one still resisting the lure of aging is the Peter Pan-ish Salman, who romanced the much younger Anushka Sharma in his last hit, Sultan. But, there was a throwaway line about his age, and with remarkable lack of vanity he let it pass.

Audiences are accepting — admiring even — this manly maturity. Incidentally, audiences also accepted a forty-ish Aishwarya Rai romancing a younger Ranbir Kapoor in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Maybe that also means that along with the stars they love, the audience is also growing up.

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