BENEATH The GLOSS
Under the layers of fluid makeup and glitz, are actors as flawless and indestructible as they seem on the silver screen? SUMITA CHAKRABORTY scratches the glossy veneer to delve into the real truth behind Bollywood’s stars reel ‘larger than life’ image.
Lights, Camera. Action… And the 70 mm silver screen dazzlingly lights up the celluloid planet making everything on it larger than life. Ethereal, surreal, perfect… the glitzy show reel painstakingly captures to perfection Bollywood’s most beautiful superstars in their complete magnificent glory. No wonder, when the Shehenshah of the film industry Amitabh Bachchan kick-boxed 10 villains simultaneously like he was swatting flies, the audience lapped it up unquestioningly. After all, the original Don Amitabh Bachchan cannot be vanquished, right? …Or when the Baadshah of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan romantically raised his arms in his signature pose to the ‘senorita of the moment’ in his umpteen number of films, the audience whistled and cheered him on.
After all, he is the eternal king of romance. Furthermore, when the Padmaavat heroine par excellence Deepika Padukone did a Ghoomar looking amazingly beautiful, her fans gasped, “Oh she’s such a natural beauty.” Likewise, poetry is forever waxed about Katrina Kaif’s ethereal beauty or Anushka Sharma’s lissom figure. Even the teenyboppers’ superstar Varun Dhawan or the Michael Jackson of India, Tiger Shroff are heralded as pinup boys. Put high on pedestals, worshipped as idols and heralded as Gods and Goddesses. Indeed, they are ‘a thing of beauty, a joy forever’… Flawless, perfect and indestructible… But wait a moment, scratch the glossy veneer… go ahead... dust off the star trappings – the perfect ambiance, beautiful chiffons and satins, or the luxe lifestyle… Look closely beneath the glitz ‘n’ the glamour... beneath the perfect skin, line less forehead or the zero figure. You’ll find that our larger than life actors at the end of the day, are actually as vulnerable, insecure and helpless as all us mere mortals. In fact, what’s worse is that the after effects of the celluloid world’s glitz ‘n’ the glam can be as deadly as any unforgiving
virus. After all, it is a Herculean task to always look flawless and perfect with zillions of cameras poised and waiting for you to fall from the high pedestal you’re perched on. Or tackling millions of self-made critics waiting to scrutinise every pimple, wrinkle or crease on your face or to body shame you. …Living under a giant spotlight can actually be rather nerve racking!
The Humongous Weight Of Stardom
Don’t believe us? Ask Deepika Padukone, the actor who has grabbed the coveted Number One position in Bollywood and who is earning more than her male counterparts. Some time back, Padmaavat’s Ranisa, the actor with the most gorgeous dimples, confessed that she had been struggling with anxiety and depression for some time. …That at a time when she was being heralded as India’s biggest female superstar. In an earlier interview, Deepika told us, “In early 2014, I was on top of the world where my work was concerned. Yet, there was a niggling feel of dissatisfaction in me. One morning, I fainted due to exhaustion. I thought it was stress but I didn’t really focus on it instead, I decided I’d channel my energies into work. But yet that empty feeling wouldn’t go away.” She then added, “One day, in front of my mum,
Anil Kapoor was suffering from a very painful leg condition called knee bursitis – a condition where you can barely walk. But he couldn’t show his pain, after all, he was an actor!
I just broke down. She got me to talk to a psychologist friend who concluded that I was suffering from anxiety and depression. I baulked at the idea of taking medication at first. I thought counselling was enough but it wasn’t. When things wouldn’t settle down, I took medication, and today I can speak about this.” Life under constant scrutiny can be scary. No wonder, Deepika buckled under the pressure. Today, poor Deepika who has been suffering from severe backache for a while, has been diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency – spending long hours in closed sets, practising dancing just to get that perfect step or sitting for long hours in the makeup room cramming dialogues, sure can have adverse effects. Earlier too, there have been so many tales of stars of yore who just couldn’t deal with the pressure of the glam world and who resorted to drinking, smoking and what not, to cope with it. The late Vinod Khanna packed his bags and moved to his guru Rajnish’s ashram away from Bollywood. At that point, he was even being heralded as the next number one – a position he was snatching from the great Amitabh Bachchan. But the burden of stardom was too much and
The rules of beauty are strict and it’s almost impossible to win. Anushka Sharma has been skinny-shamed.” — Sonam Kapoor
he gave it all away to become Rajnish’s disciple and whiled away his time gardening at Osho ashram in Pune. Like wise hushed whispers spoke about the number of actors who dealt with depression or had nervous breakdowns. But all this was swept away under the carpet. If out in the open, it would harm the larger than life image of an actor, you see.
Too Much Scrutiny
When Bollywood’s first female superstar Sridevi passed away in Dubai, TV pundits critically analysed her lifestyle – “lip jobs, gone through the knife, dabbling in weight loss pills”. “How she barely ate and had cut off salt and sugar from her diet.” The vociferous shrieking voices were so intrusive that her husband Boney Kapoor had to appeal to them to think of their “Chandni the way she was and not to speculate.” We don’t know what the truth is but all we can say is that it is rather rough for every actor in the glam squad. The pressure of looking good continuously is the reason these poor actors buckle down many-a-times.
No Rest For The Ailing
Recently, Bollywood and Hollywood’s powerhouse performer Irrfan Khan shocked his fans by issuing a statement that he was suffering from “a rare disease” but more importantly, he pleaded that people should stop speculating about him. In fact, he said, he’d himself issue a statement about his disease. Not that it helped, speculations were rife about what he was suffering from – right from cancer to brain tumour. All rubbish! The man true to his promise issued a statement saying he was suffering from “Neuroendrocine Tumour”. Adding, “As for the rumours, neuro is not always about the brain and googling is the easiest way to do research.” Poor man, not only does ‘this warrior’ have to cope with his medical condition, he and his family also have to battle speculations and rumours. Indeed, a huge burden for any man leave alone a star. But it is a fact that actors despite their very glam exteriors have to weather many a storm. I remember meeting Anil Kapoor for an interview. He was at his best showman self until he walked me to the lift of his home and told me that he was suffering from a very painful leg condition called knee bursitis – a condition where you can barely walk. But he couldn’t show his pain, after all, he was an actor!
Actors Too Have Chinks In Their Armours
His daughter Sonam Kapoor who people call Bollywood’s most stylish fashionista, very candidly averred in her blog, “I didn’t know much at 15. But I knew I could never look like a Bollywood actress. Two years and some surprising life decisions later, Sanjay Leela Bhansali cast me in Saawariya. Despite being on the cusp of actually being a movie star, I didn’t believe I looked the part. I constantly worried that, if asked to dance in a backless choli, rolls of back fat would give me away as an imposter to the industry. Nobody lines up to buy tickets to see cellulite. “So I embarked on a series of unhealthy behaviours. I dieted serially; sometimes South Beach, other times Atkins. Once, in desperation, I tried a diet that had me eating pineapples all day. I pushed myself too hard at spin classes, did power yoga for hours at a stretch, and developed an unhealthy relationship with food. Some weeks, desperate to drop a couple of kilos, I would simply not eat. (Now, thanks to those dumbass teenage decisions, I’m stuck with acidity for life.) “Far from accepting my body once I was making a living as an actress, I was shown new reasons to hate it. Articles surfaced online, photos zoomed to my arms and thighs, red circles drawn around the slightest hints of a blemish. “When I had a couple of movies out, Shobhaa Dé wrote a blog post saying that Sonam Kapoor “just doesn’t cut it in the sex appeal stakes”. People started calling me flat-chested. I’d never been insecure about my C-cup but I got defensive about it on Koffee With Karan. “…The rules of beauty are strict and it’s almost impossible to win. Anushka Sharma has been skinny-shamed, Sonakshi Sinha has been fat-shamed, Katrina Kaif has been fit-shamed. These are women who are and always have been staggeringly beautiful. “Here’s the real deal: Before each public appearance, I spend 90 minutes in a makeup chair. Three to six people work on my hair and makeup, while a professional touches up my nails. My eyebrows are tweezed and threaded every week. There’s concealer on parts of my body that I could never have predicted would need concealing. I’m up at 6am every day and at the gym
Far from accepting my body once I was making a living as an actress, I was shown new reasons to hate it.”
by 7:30. I exercise for 90 minutes and, some evenings, again before bed. It’s someone’s full-time job to decide what I can and cannot eat. There are more ingredients in my face packs than in my food. There’s a team dedicated to finding me flattering outfits. After all that, if I’m still not “flawless” enough, there are generous servings of Photoshop.” ..Hmmm. The load of stardom is indeed gigantic and the crown that actors flaunt is indeed a crown of thorns. Unfortunately, because we perch them high up on pedestals, they are seen as ‘flawless’ but they have to go through a lot of pain and ‘unnecessary things’ just to live up to our expectations. So let’s raise a toast… to their performances and their powerhouse talent. But let’s not weigh them down under tags like demi-gods and goddesses and put them under constant scrutiny. Or call them flawless and perfect. After all, they too are mere mortals, who bleed when hurt.
Katrina Kaif has been fitshamed. These are women who are and always have been staggeringly beautiful.”