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Talent Is All That Counts

Friday, June 16, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

It is amusing sometimes, to read actors so solemnly talking of "prepping” for a role, something they undoubtedly heard a Hollywood actor say. The "prep" usually means more money paid to a trainer or stylist. It rarely makes a difference to their performance—who is actually counting the ‘packs’ on their abs? For instance, Sushant Singh Rajput discussing in great detail how he prepared his body for the role of the contemporary dude and the warrior from the past for 'Raabta'; who could tell the difference? If he didn’t take off his shirt and tell the girl (Kriti Sanon), “You want this? My body!” who would have noticed? It is true that actors these days are expected to have gym-fit bodies, so they have to slog and starve as much as their leading ladies do. But their abs and biceps certainly don’t help them act better.

When Aamir Khan chose to put on weight instead of using padding to play an older man in 'Dangal', it was a mark of his dedication, but if he had used prosthetics, the audience would not have thought any less of his performance. They are acting, after all, not becoming the parts they play; that would be problematic. Now nuggets of Shahid Kapoor’s "prep" to play Raja Ratan Singh in Padmavati are being fed to the media. He will be dressed in royal regalia and armour, who will be checking his weight and measurements?

So, while the guys are chiselling away at their bodies, for the girls, the “prep” is learning martial arts or fencing, or parkour—whatever—so that they can do their action scenes convincingly. But most of the time, the risky stunt work is done by doubles, so why this proof of dedication to work, when nobody is even demanding it.

The leading ladies, it turns out, have another problem— body-shaming trolls! If they don’t look ‘hot’ they get trolled for letting themselves go, and if they pose with their toned (and it does take hard work!) bodies on display, they offend the “Bhartiya Sanskaar” brigade. How could Priyanka Chopra show her knees to the Prime Minister? How can a Muslim newbie (Fatima Sana Sheikh) wear a swimsuit during Ramzan? They quite forget that some of the early sex symbols, like Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi were Muslim and they were never questioned for wearing skimpy outfits. Vidya Balan, who is considered one of the best actresses in Bollywood never bothered to get a bikini body.

Even in these times when image is everything, what matters to a ticket-buying audience is getting their money’s worth of entertainment, and how many go to the cinema to see six-pack or washboard abs? If they did, 'Raabta' would be a superhit.

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