My Bollywood Age

Hosted by

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

I have an actress friend from India -- she's a Bollywood starlet -- and she tells me that over there, if you're a Bollywood star and you're married, and you want to stay a Bollywood star, you have to keep your marriage a secret.

Movie fans in India, apparently, need to think that their favorite romantic leads on screen are, technically, available. That they could, possibly, meet up and fall in love without any messy entanglements to deal with.

So my Bollywood friend ends up sneaking around a lot, with her husband. And when asked by the Bollywood fan press, she describes him as "just a friend."

And also, she tells me, that the movie fan culture over there is so strong that a lot of people have trouble making a clear distinction between her real life, and what happened to her onscreen. In a movie a few years ago, she played a doomed ingénue, melodramatically disfigured in a fire, and to this day her housekeeper tells her how pretty she looks, now that the scars have healed.

And then there's something called "Bollywood Age," which is any number less than 24. Meaning, a lot of Bollywood stars make annual trips to Dubai, where, for a price, they can get new Indian passports issued with a more graceful date of birth.

Of course, she told me all of this in an "aren't we nuts" tone of voice, and I laughed along with her, but the truth is, things here aren't that different, especially when it comes to age. I can think of at least three top-level network executives who I know for a fact are my age or a year older -- never mind what that age is exactly, just trust me: all three graduated from college in the same year or the year before I did -- they may be a year older or a year younger, but they're not, as one of them tried to imply in a newspaper profile, five years younger. That means high school graduation at 13, implying a genius-level IQ, which is counter-indicated by the choices that particular executive made in assembling a fall schedule.

The problem with the concept of the Bollywood age is that it requires a certain denial of the obvious. People get older. That's what they do. They don't look less old just because they're wearing Seven For All Mankind jeans and an untucked Paul Smith shirt. I know a writer -- a little older than me, actually (never mind what age that is, exactly) who has spent the past year, and a whole lot of money out of his own pocket, posting short little videos up on the web. Because, as he told me in a text message, "RU n2 web vid? That's wot they want. Yng stuff."

All of which is probably true, though it's sort of sad that everybody in the business is trying to look younger for everybody else in the business. I mean, if we could all agree to simultaneously let our stomachs out and wipe the product out of our hair, to stop pretending we really know how to use the Treo, we'd all have a lot more time.

You know what? I'll start. Last Friday, it was my birthday. It wasn't one of the big ones, but it was up there, I guess. Do you want to know how old I am? I mean, I'll tell you. I'm not uptight about that at all.

I'll tell you. It's no big deal.

You first.

Well, that's it for this week. Next week, we'll game the system. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

Photo: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images



Rob Long