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.

Stardust (English) - - COVER STORY -

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.”



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