Aamir Khan, Abhay Deol, Akshay Kumar, Bollywood, comment, Farhan Akhtar, hrithikroshan, imrankhan, indiancinema, John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Ranbir Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Thoughts, Trend, vervemagazine
Published: Verve Magazine, Verve Man Supplement, October 2009
Salman Khan, the trailblazer of toplessness in Hindi cinema, transformed from an endearingly lean romantic hero into a full-blown male with an explosion of warrior-like muscles. The others grudgingly followed suit(less). Tongue firmly in cheek, SITANSHI TALATI-PARIKH disclaims all puns as truly intentional as she traces the shirtless journey
WE LOVE THEM, WE LOVE TO hate them, and now we’ve got them by the balls. For years, Choli ke peeche remained a resounding metaphor for desi mankind, as women heaved with cleavages bared and shimmied their naked bellies. It’s time for retribution. Men have now to convince us of their physical worthiness. No, I’m not a feminist. I truly love men, but this is honourably judicious and just sound philosophy. No woman or gay man worth her/ his salt will settle for less than that.
So began the era of the shirtless man – and the ball was set rolling by Prem-boy. Boy, do I miss Prem from Maine Pyar Kiya. I’d be his friend any day! Ignoring the fact that his first commercial success may have had something to do with his lean frame and boyish charm, Salman Khan instead fixated upon the name as a lucky charm and decided to henceforth fill the screen with his presence, literally. Prem from Partner and No Entry are not exactly more prem-worthy simply because there is more of him to love. Characteristically, Salman Khan’s beefy frame became more ‘wanted’ than his histrionic abilities as he cleverly diverted our attention to his torso, with frequent fluid and well-practised moments of sudden shirtlessness. The swollen muscles oozed charm and the girls swooned. And the men followed suit. Swooning, I mean. They began hyperventilating – they realised that to be taken seriously, as true romantic lovers, with fire in their loins and sincerity in their hearts, they would have to bare all. Truth be damned, the shirt must come off. And so began that waxing of the bodies and the waning of the clothes, as the actors worked themselves into a deep sweat for the roles that demanded an idolisation of their bodies. The Khan gym became the harvest ground for the upcoming lean, mean male machines.
Shah Rukh Khan decided that the best way to circumvent this phenomenon was to do exactly the opposite – keep his shirt on. Tantalising and teasing, he wore skin-tight ensembles, T-shirts that promised a well-toned torso when peeled off, to which only those near and dear would be privy. For the not-so-lucky others, it was left to the fertile imagination and Chinese whispers. And then, someone near and dear to him decided that enough was enough. Such magnificence must not be left inside the closet, but must be shared with the populace at large. So, amid quite a splash, all multiple packs of SRK’s un-really flat belly were exposed in Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om. The women (and men) responded with sincere gratitude – so much money was spent in a genuine quest for sensual pleasure that the two Khans (one with a flat stomach and one generously pregnant) sang their title track all the way from the box office to the bank.
Aamir Khan watched in stoic silence. He knew his work was cut out for him. Baring his chest as a farmer would only get the spade card – he needed a clever way to up the shirtless quotient into an ace of hearts. He decided that the only way to make women scream with orgasmic satisfaction was to go down south. That’s when he decided to recreate Ghajini in Hindi. His blown up torso filled the screen with its angst, the veins on his muscular arms popped out with fury – that seemed to glower with an incinerating question – Prem, Rahul or Me? After all, if anyone came after his girl with a hatchet, whether she lived to tell the tale or not, he would make sure justice was achieved. Even if it killed him to remember to do so.
While the cream Khans were running around scheming pure nudity, at the Kumars’ there was much debate about the best course of action. How could the great body transform from toned-stuntman-entertainer into sizzling garam masala? That is when they decided to take the high road – with the wife unbuttoning khiladi husband’s pants in a public display of affection. Truly hedonistic. Meanwhile, his old counterpart Saif Ali Khan was not to be left an anari any longer. He figured a hot new avatar was in order and in Salaam Namaste, in a mad Race, with a lot of Tashan, he showed the world that what he was made of. We know at least one girl who fell hard for it and requested a more detailed inspection. While playing onscreen gangster roles to vindicate his offscreen ones, Sanju baba (Sanjay Dutt for the uninitiated) decided that he couldn’t be forgotten – after all, he was in his hey days, the proud bearer of a hot bod, too! So he joined the ranks of the younger lot – the likes of Arjun (Rampal), Zayed (Khan), Upen (Patel) and Dino (Morea) who were flashing well-toned bodies and not much wit.
When you talk of the real current guard of male hotness, Hrithik Roshan and John Abraham immediately spring to mind. I recall a young Hrithik Roshan out on a romantic date with then-girlfriend Sussanne, looking dangerously attractive. He wasn’t buffed up – he was lean and lanky. And then out of the blue, Kaho Na Pyaar Hai threw up an overnight sensation – a new dancing superstar with rippling muscles and a body that seemed like it would burst out of the sheathed vests. The girls nearly jumped out of their seats with uncontrollable hysteria. I can only imagine that Roshan, a shy, ambitious youngster (the industry is full of such oxymorons) was overwhelmed with the response, scared even, so afraid for his life that he decided it was better to keep the clothes all on – at least until he was well armed. The Greek-god-superhero protected us in Krrish, battled his suitors in Jodhaa Akbar and matched wits with his counterpart in Dhoom 2, all suitably unclothed, leaving women severely asthmatic with increased bouts of breathlessness. As if that is not enough, to drive the point home hard, Roshan (with full aashirwad from Roshan senior) has decided to shipwreck our hearts even more with his upcoming super-sensual Kites, where it is all about baring more, not Barbara Mori.
John Abraham had it easy or hard depending on who’s judging. He could have been written off as a piece of rugged meat: good to bite, but tough to chew. He met all the traditional bad-boy expectations: hard, chiselled body, a driving desire for bikes and the rough road to success; and to the disappointment of many a woman, a hot babe to go with the hot body on the hot wheels. The slightly crooked, dimpled smile and the wayward earnest expression belie the fact that he has an MBA tucked up his sleeveless arm. Going straight into no-nonsense territory, steamy Jism proved early on that he had no qualms about using his body to the best advantage, Dhoom sent pulses racing faster than his bike and Dostana captured the juicy dimples in all his cheeks. After his serious nudity in New York, we may grudgingly agree with the bootylicious actor when he asserts, ‘You may know me for my body, you may think I am sexy, but you will respect me as an actor.’
And just around the corner, the boy next door has come a long way from being a performer in Shaimak Davar’s dance troupe, better known for his flamboyant relationship with Kareena Kapoor. And now he is playing the role of one of the most eligible bachelors, playing the field by playing his current relationship(s) close to his chest. Always sporting a well-expanded torso, ‘F’hahid Kapoor is riding a high horse, with hair askew, grim determination and a lean, shirtless body steering him very close to the winning line, making him the industry’s latest poster child of toplessness. Rather than well-clothed charm and boyish appeal, it is the (unnecessarily) bare-chested appeal of kamina Charlie that seems to tug at female (and box office) heartstrings.
When we speak of male nudity, there is a young debonair rake who will possibly never live down the unexpected sensation of a particular homoerotic towel scene in his debut movie, one that will be etched into memories of an unforgiving and salivating audience for years to come. He may hide behind his beard (Rocket Singh), wear khadi (Rajneeti), sleep in (Wake Up Sid) and disappear from the media, but Ranbir Kapoor will forever remain the iconic just-showered Ranbir Raj from Saawariya – all infamously fair and handsome.
Proving their own worth in the meatpacking business is the young crop of ‘thinking actors’ who are in various stages of undressing. Neil Nitin Mukesh, who has a predilection towards dark roles, has seriously gone the full monty for his upcoming film Jail. Farhan Akhtar gave us a splashy preview in Rock On!! and Abhay Deol was darkly interesting in his lazy, rather hairy topless state in Dev.D. Imran Khan has yet to show us what he’s made of, and he can kidnap us anytime to do so!