Arjun Kapoor made headlines when he stated on Koffee With Karan that he is not single. Arjun, whose conversation skills tend to outshine his acting abilities, underlined a confirmation of his relationship with Malaika Arora, single mother and item girl royalty. Question is, why does he have to speak about his rumored relationship with Arora so cautiously?
A couple of years back, Arjun worked his publicists and press connections in an attempt to keep paparazzi footage that placed him outside Malaika’s plush new apartment. He didn’t want anyone to find out that he was visiting Malaika as a good friend, despite wagging tongues in the film fraternity. The two would reportedly hook up (yes, the term that his half-sister Janhvi Kapoor apparently doesn’t understand) on locations abroad when he was shooting, or when Malaika was vacationing with her omnipresent ‘besties’. Also, a phase when Malaika was working towards a complicated separation from ex-husband Arbaaz Khan, both worked meticulously at avoiding the spotlight.
But what’s the problem now? Unmistakably, Arjun and Malaika’s non-committal status towards each other in public has mostly to do with people’s perception. Audiences aside, the media has reported details of their assumed relationship with a touch of cheekiness and salacious pleasure. For instance, check out headlines speculating about both buying a house together, one can’t miss the gossipy tone to most stories. The second aspect could be the complexity of telling his family officially, one that has just begun to come together- as Arjun updated everyone on Koffee with Karan. Father-son Boney and Arjun have built a stronger bond, as have his half-sisters Janhvi and Khushi. And a third, most important aspect of this open secret status about his girlfriend could be the Salman Khan factor. Despite Malaika and Arbaaz Khan breaking up, Salman might still frown upon she getting officially linked to a younger actor.
But those, in the long run, are technicalities that one has to iron out in a liberal-minded, widely absorbing film fraternity. The keyword that has made imagining Arjun and Malaika together so brazen and difficult for most people is his age. Arjun is 33 and Malaika, 45. She is the mother of a teenager. They have a sizeable age difference. And this is often viewed as sacrilegious by a large section of Indian people. It wouldn’t be any problem at all, accepting an older man dating or marrying a woman much younger to him. Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan are considered royalty in our celebverse despite their age gap beyond a decade. Similarly, Mira Rajput is 14 years younger to Shahid Kapoor, yet, their fast expanding family is viewed as representative of marital bliss. When the role is reversed though, it becomes an outrage. Somehow, Malaika and Arjun getting together becomes plain simple wrong. Reflective of deep-seated patriarchy; Sure, but when has that ever stopped anyone from judging?
Add to that, the fact that Malaika is best known for her dance numbers in Hindi films, and the sniggers multiply. Like many actors in the 35 plus age bracket, being a popular item girl didn’t always become a disadvantage for female actors about a decade back. Now, of course, Katrina Kaif gets criticized, aptly, for playing a dancing girl role in Thugs of Hindostan. Equating Malaika’s professional choices to her persona is not fair either, but that too is to be expected in a largely judgmental society where women have to adhere to stereotypes at all stages of life. Having interacted with her on a few occasions, the author has found her polite, friendly, unassuming and a thorough professional. Her conduct could give a few lessons on how to behave on a film set or during a live show to many a leading lady.
Arjun Kapoor might be in love with Malaika Arora. From their recent public appearances, where they haven’t chosen to hide, it seems that they are indeed together. If anything, Arjun should be lauded for standing by his woman while she has faced her share of ups and downs. He does have a self-effacing style of humour, whereby he will crack a joke about how he broke up with a girlfriend after a chat with Ranbir Kapoor on Johar’s show. Truth be told, Arjun is a man who values women and their contribution in his life more than most-given his affection for his late mother Mona Kapoor, and sister Anshula. Whenever he sees fit to tell the world at large about Malaika, his decision should be accepted as that of any other celebrity- with aplomb and a bunch of millennial emotionally over the top terms dotting the headline. Judgments and snide remarks must be left out, as the time for such regressive thinking has long since past for us.