Seriously! Audiences Have A Problem With Taking Beautiful Actresses Seriously

It’s known as the law of equality.  It’s a  sad fact of  our  existence. We make  the beautiful  pay for their  beauty. The entertainment  business is suffused with examples of  beautiful  people who are made to  suffer because  of  their  talent and beauty.

When Aishwarya Rai Bachchan took on the challenge of playing Daljit Kaur the doughty sister of Punjab’sSarbjit Singh,she knew what she was getting into.She knew she would be judged not for what she achieved on screen but the baggage she brings from behind the scenes as being a beautiful brand.

Now when the reviews speak of how she has not got the accent and body language wrong, Aishwarya is smiling knowingly.

In Indian cinema, exceptionally good-looking people are denied any acting credentials even if they are good actors. The mesmerizing Madhubala was considered only a beauty queen until after her death when audiences and critics actually began to look at the subtleties and nuances of her performances in Chalti Ka Naam Gadi,Amar and most of all , Mughal-e-Azam.

Does an exceptionally beautiful actress have to die to be noticed  for her performing abilities? Saira Banu andHema Malini, labeled officially as the ‘Beauty Queen’ and ‘Dream Girl’ of Indian cinema, are yet to get their dues as actresses. although Saira was far more than the luminous looker in Padosan, Shagird, Sagina Mahatoand Chaitali, and Hema in spite of  superlative performances in Seeta Aur Geeta, Lal Patthar, Khushboo andMeera is yet to get her the critical renown she deserves.

Aishwarya , they say,is too beautiful to play Daljit Kaur. Perhaps one reason why Sonam Kapoor escaped inNeerja from being labeled too beautiful to act is because the orginal Neerja was quite  a looker herself. God forbid, if  the real Neerja  had not been  a beauty…Sonam’s looks would have been seen as an obstacle to playing the part.

Perhaps Aishwarya in Sarbjit has not been able to hit the highest dramatic notes in the performance the wayShabana Azmi or Tabu might have been. It doesn’t make this a less accomplished performance. To fumble while you try to reach the centre , the essence, of a character is not a curse. It’s a blessing to have that ability to scale histrionic heights without the fear of falling.

And hey, to over-act you need to know how to act.Ask Shah Rukh Khan.

Instead of looking for ways to pull down Aishwarya’s performance as the unvanquished Daljit Kaur, using the same adjectives(“shrill,inadequate, hammy, over-the-top” )why not appreciate the effort that the actress has made to make us forget her physical beauty , quite in the same way as Charlize Theron in Monster?

No western critic accused Ms Theron of being too beautiful to play the disfigured prostitute. In Bollywood  they wait to pounce on actresses known to be glamorous and beautiful.

“See , she is trying to act again. How dare she! Isn’t it enough that God has given her the looks? Acting bhikaregi? Greedy woman.”

That’s the song the chorus of dissenters seem to be singing for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s performance inSarbjit.

Have a heart, guys. That’s what Sarbjit is all about.

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