Lara Dutta: Women between 35 and 55 were rarely seen in films earlier

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There was a time when women over 40 were only considered for the role of a “long-suffering wife, or grandmother”, but not anymore, with age-appropriate roles being written in the industry. And actor Lara Dutta Bhupathi finds it “very liberating”.

“When I look at my recent projects, it was one of the most liberating and one of the most fulfilling experiences… Because I was playing women in their 40s,” says Lara, who has had a busy year with a variety of parts — from a woman in her 40s exploring the dating scene in Hiccups and Hookups to a cop trying to get noticed in a man;s world in Hundred.

The actor looks back at the change in women portrayal from the time she entered the industry back in 2003.

“I was portraying somebody who was my own age, with very real problems. These were characters that weren’t necessarily your stereotypical portrayal of women on screen, the way it has been in the past. It’s amazing and liberating to play a woman who is not perfect on screen, and is faulty and has her weaknesses,” explains the actor, who recently won Best Actress in Supporting Role award at Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Award for BellBottom (2021).

Lara finds it amazing to get under the psyche of such characters. “Because I understand this being in my 40s. Today, I know the psychology of these characters and the women. It is much more relatable to play these characters today, which we didn’t have earlier,” points out the 43-year-old.

Looking back at the gap in the past, she reveals, “The entire cohort of women between 35 and 55 were very rarely seen and addressed on screen, whether it was in films or anything else. It was as though we didn’t exist”.

“If you were over 55, you were the grandmother, or if you were in your 30s, women were playing the mothers of some of the heroes, or playing the long suffering wife or the girlfriend. Today, at least for this sector of women, there is a section of the audience, which is fantastic as you move beyond only having to be subjected to the saas bahu serials”.

All through the last year, Lara has had a busy year with back to back projects releasing and getting appreciated, be it her Indira Gandhi portrayal in BellBottom, or a woman in 40s exploring the dating scene or woman trying hard to break the mould and get noticed in a man’s world.

“It is amazing to be able to display vulnerability on screen in a public space… Because we are constantly told to internalise everything. To everybody else, it needs to look like everything is okay and that we have it under control, which we certainly don’t have on most days,” says the mother of one.

In fact, she is happy that her roles are winning audiences and awards. “I have been incredibly lucky to get such a diverse array of roles or to play. It has been very satisfying for me as an actor. The last one year has been an overwhelming one for me because of the amazing response I got, and kept me on a high. I look at that as the silver lining in this incredibly challenging period that we all had to go through with this entire COVID pandemic,” she concludes.


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