Women in the world have always succumbed to a strange pressure. The pressure of staying beautiful. Be it a matrimonial alliance happening in a remote village, or an actor displaying herself at international award functions, the issue remains equally relevant. Women from different strata of society are criticised on the basis of the colour of their skin, clothes they choose to wear, greying hair and their carelessness with those stubborn wrinkles. The recent target of the frowning paparazzi, equipped with a magnifying glass and a red marker, is none other than Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
She dared to wear on the Cannes red carpet some such outfits that didn’t pass comfortably through all the tough scrutiny. From her purple lips to the choice of her gowns, everyone including the fashion police and social media enthusiasts have had a robust and uncompromising opinion. A group called her purple lips a blunder, some shamed her choice of ensembles, while others went a few steps ahead pointing at a curious bulge around her tummy, giving rise to speculations of a second baby being on the way.
It is understandable to some extent that actors will be judged on their looks, since they represent a host of fashion brands at all important platforms. But aren’t we going overboard with it all?
Do we even realise that when a woman walks the red carpet at a prestigious event for fifteen years consistently, it has a lot to do with her sustained success?
In a world where there is no dearth of pretty faces, brands choose icons like her as their ambassadors, who have managed to secure a certain attitude and positivity with their work, year after year. Endorsement contracts are signed and renewed to borrow from the statements that celebrities define with their being. And yet, at all domestic and international pedestals, they stand answerable for the unpardonable fat on their post-baby bodies, the clothes and colours that aren’t perfect as per traditional or contemporary trends, the make-up that doesn’t sufficiently hide their dark circles.
A few days back, Priyanka Chopra was criticised by desi twitteratti for wearing a ‘white mosquito net’ for the Oscars, and dumping the more patriotic Indian sari. Deepika Padkone (and many others) have had to bear the brunt of accidental moments of their lives being tastelessly circled in red. Shilpa Shetty and Genelia D’souza had been trolled for repeating their outfits in some of the personal functions they attended. Kajol’s and Bipasha Basu’s skin colour had been a concern for many. And of course, who can ever forget the endless discussions on the length of Sania Mirza’s skirts?
With all these and much more, where exactly do we leave our cultural icons? Aren’t we forcing them into that false dark world which seems incomplete without the skin lightening solutions and Botox shots and tummy tucks? How healthy is a life that invites artificiality to stay in business?
The choices of celebrities’ at the end of the day reflect upon the more common masses, who constantly try to emulate their inspirations. Hence the pursuits of perfection attempting to hold back age and conforming to the socially accepted norms of beauty, are increasingly coming back to the more humble women of the society, who lack resources but are driven by an abnormal desire to become the Priyanka Chopras and Deepika Padukones of their neighbourhood.
A film like Dum Laga Ke Haisha couldn’t really help oversized women to feel beautiful about themselves. Neither could it change the generic perceptions of beauty. The reverse certainly has happened. Bhoomi Pednekar is a thin, svelte woman today; her dedication towards fitness being an inspiration. And basically, that’s the point.
Can our society ever mature enough to prioritise fitness over beauty? Can it ever accept the effects of time on the body? Can it ever celebrate the beauty of being, instead of obsessing myopically over the face?
Will there ever be a heroine who doesn’t fall into the traditional definitions of beauty and represents the common woman, whose skin isn’t blemish-fee all the time? Would there be films that are happy to recruit such a leading lady? And of course, would such films return 200 Crore of business?
Would there ever be a day when Aishwarya Rai Bachchan walks the red carpet and we dismiss what we don’t like about her, simply as her personal choice, and go back to our daily routines?