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Akshay & Bollywood Growing Up?

Subhash K . Jha

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Akshay Kumar

So Akshay  Kumar plays a  transgender  in his  forthcoming  film. He has  come  a lomg way from the  time he  nearly  fainted when  the late Rituparno  Ghosh offered  him the  role of  a gay character.

Ritu, I  remember, was  most excited. He told me of how  he would present Akshay, that he would wax  the hair off the  actor’s chest, and  other details I  didn’t  want to hear.

Akshay never came  into the picture.  Today he is willing to play  the metro-sexual  Indian male without  getting coy about his character’s sexuality.

But  the image  of  the  virile he-man with  multiple women hanging on  to his  lapels is  the  one that  Bollywood  heroes  love to propagate.

   Metro, hetero….Long before these new-age definitions of virility crept up  Dharmendra was linged…sorry, linked  with almost   every actress he worked with  . On the sets his  cronies(that’s what the friends  were called during those days)  would turn the pages of film  glossies and point at various actresses.

    The garam  actor would either nod or shake his head in the negative.

     Such   amorous anecdotes  go  well with the image  of the True Hero that Bollywood loves to propagate. To Akshay’s credit he’s at least honest about keeping up with ancient definitions of machismo.When Vishal Bhardwaj had gone to Akshay with Macbeth the star  found the character to be un-heroic.

Now that’s what I call carrying a Shakespearean tragedy   too far!

 Some years ago  when  Rituparno Ghosh  offered the neo-Dharam the role of a gay man Akshay baulked.  Poor Ritu went scampering home to Kolkota    while we in Bollywood had  to  wait for the non-star ACTOR Sanjay Suri to play the first homosexual hero in  Onirban’s  My Brother Nikhil.

  Sign  of Hindi cinema  finally maturing?  Let’s not uncork  champagne bottles as yet. It would take maybe another millennium  for Hindi film heroes to actually delve into themes of dark, alternate sexuality.

Before we forget…Dharmendra was the first superstar of Bollywood who took his shirt off on screen   …Others in those times wouldn’t dare. Paunch  showed.

         Then there was Feroz Khan who was the first one to get into a bathing suit on screen. Luckily  there was a beach around.  Nowadays they strip without or without aqueous props.

     It’s  exciting to see the changing sexual mores onscreen. But  off it? Come off it! By and large our film heroes remain inhibited by their images. They would rather be defined by their publicists’ wisdom  than the persons they are when they peel off their masks at night.

 “Problem  is, our heroes don’t peel  off their masks even at nights,”  a happily married actress told me . “They go on believing they’re the Casanovas and Don Juans that they read and see themselves as being even when no camera is watching them. Some of the so-called studs of our industry are actually soggy noodles.”

    She names  one very major star known for his ladies’  man reputation and also  for regaling his friends with inside details  on his score-board. “No one can  guess this.

But this macho star is a terrible lover.”

    He isn’t alone.  If we make list with two headings –‘Posturing’ and ‘Prowess’ we’ll have a  Houseful board outside the former flank in no time at all.

       There’s this notorious case of a  young   South-based music composer who was closely associated with Ram Gopal Varma  for a few years.

This man was seen  in  the company  of some  of the most stunning actresses in Bollywood. But the ladies’ man reputation was punctured when a very sexy very outspoken  crooner who tried to form an intimate  relationship with the musician, blurted out, “But he  can’t perform!  And since  he’s not an actor you know what kind of a performance I mean. The sexy dreamy artistic  man’s image  is all in his head, not in bed.”

   Of course there’s the other truth. ..there always is.  Some  of the most devoted married actors  sow their seeds so far and wide  we would need  an archeologist to trace their chromosomes.

  A model-turned-actor who holds his very beautiful wife’s hand in all public places has her tacit consent to perform even when the cameras are switched off. “Look, I know my husband is terribly  attractive.  When he works with these heroines they’re bound to throw themselves at him. He’d have to be gay or impotent to turn them down. I know he’s neither.  Why not just accept the truth about his libido and move on?” she  once told a  close friend.

  It’s like the old-man of letters,   Khushwant Singh who spoke with a wink about hordes of ladies.

But never slept a wink with them.

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