When Rajini Chandy posted pictures from her glamorous photoshoot on Facebook recently, she didn’t anticipate they would go viral.
The photos show the 69-year-old housewife-turned-actress, who’s generally seen in colorful elegant saris, dressed in a jumpsuit, long dresses, a pair of distressed jeans, and a short denim dress. In some, she’s wearing a crown of fresh white flowers picked from her garden.
Described as “bold and beautiful” by the local press in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where she lives, the photoshoot has raised the hackles of many in a conservative state where most women still dress modestly in saris or traditional long skirts.
The photoshoot, Mrs. Chandy told, was the idea of Athira Joy, a 29-year-old photographer known for her unconventional work.
Ms. Joy said what attracted her to the actress was how she was so different from her own mother.
“Indian women spend their lives caged in this system of marriage and raising a family. Most give up on life once they reach 60. They become nannies to their grandchildren,” she says.
Her 65-year-old mother, she says, is a typical Indian woman who suffers from all sorts of health issues that 60 plus women face.
“But Rajini is different – she takes care of herself, she’s fit, she’s bold, she’s beautiful, she’s fashionable. She’s 69, but in her mind, she’s 29, just like me.”
In traditional Keralan society, Mrs. Chandy has always stood out. When she returned to Kerala in 1995 after spending decades in Mumbai where her husband worked with a foreign bank, she stepped out in a pair of jeans or wore lipstick. Once, she tells me, she was reprimanded for wearing a sleeveless blouse.
In the past few years, she’s made news for her unconventional choices in 2016, at the age of 65, she debuted as an actress in the Malayalam-language comedy-drama, Oru Muthassi Gadha (A Granny’s Mace).
Since, then, she’s been seen in two more films and participated in the second season of Bigg Boss (the Malayali version of Big Brother) last year.
Mrs. Chandy says she did the shoot to motivate older people to believe they can still enjoy their life.
The photo shoot was meant to be fun too.
The set of 20 photographs was taken at Mrs. Chandy’s sprawling home in Kochi towards the end of last month.
Bouquets, and brickbats, began arriving once the photos went up on Facebook and Instagram last week and the local press picked them up.
There were thousands of appreciative comments. Many complimented her for her confidence, and admirers found her phone number and called or WhatsApp her.