Skin deep beauty or timeless charm

So, it was one of those exceptional weekends when I had some leisure on my hands and I was lazily surfing television channels when I chanced upon this song playing from ‘Aandhi’ where a very middle-aged looking Sanjeev Kumar was crooning with Suchitra Sen ‘Is mod se jaate hain…’ whilst ambling down a lush meadow. Another channel was airing ‘Bindiya chamkegi…’ a hot Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz number, which I love humming along to.  And whilst I was indulging in this channel-surfing and light singing spree, I realized how much our movie stars have changed in terms of appearances down the years. Whilst Sanjeev Kumar’s acting histrionics never came in the way of his slightly overweight, paunch-laden appearance, a sway of Rajesh Khanna’s head made millions of women swoon across India, granting him the superstar status, whilst Mumtaz’s charm never diminished by her tiny nose or chubby body. I never remember thinking of Rajesh Khanna’s abs or Sanjeev Kumar’s six packs or Mumtaz’s size-zero figure. 1 Cut to present times when movies and red-carpet events for award shows, both national and international are making news for which star looked ‘hot or not’ rather than their performances. As a society, all we are obsessing about is looks, looks and looks! It is all about how young can one appear, defying all boundaries of ageing and growing old and the favourite pastime has become justifying how ‘40 is the new 30 or may be 20’?! I have grown up in times when life was simple and there was immense joy in the small pleasures of life. Nobody had any issues with ageing gracefully and the emphasis lay on leading a healthy and active life with equal importance accorded to physical beauty and mental well-being. In our contemporary times of ‘cut-copy-paste’, when any information is just a ‘Google’ click away, when disposable incomes are ascending insane levels, and when, owing to globalization and an open market economy, access to international countries, cosmetic treatments and medical practitioners is just a flight away, beauty treatments have actually acquired a whole different dimension and import. Threading, waxing, facials, and simple massages are passé…what rules the roost are Botox injections for reducing fine lines on forehead; Silicon implants to enhance breasts and backs; silk eyelashes for that perfect flutter; hair extensions and wigs to attain any look in minutes; laser therapies for hair removal; Vampire facelifts, involving injecting one’s blood to look younger; tattooed make-up for that perfect brow; needle therapy involving pricking needles into the face; barbed wires to lift and smoothen sagging skin near the neck, chin or eyes; leech therapy for blood cleansing bariatric surgery or liposuction for reducing abdominal fat…the list is bizarre and endless. 3 What is more? All these and more are being happily lapped up by people without even having the patience to understand their repercussions or side-effects in the long run. Fear of a procedure going awry or a plastic-cosmetic surgical treatment permanently causing damage is no deterrent for people who are on their quest for eternal youth and good-looks for as long as they are alive. Be it men or women, the pressure to cater to a certain body type which is essentially about six-packs and beefed muscles for the guys and tiny waists, fair skin and luxuriant hair for women of all ages and backgrounds have made everyone look like near clones, catering to the clichéd ‘hip’ or ‘cut-copy-paste look’ to emulate their favourite movie star or model. Time, money, energy and sometimes even health are not issues when it comes to ‘looking a particular way’ and this fixation with looking good and young has almost acquired ugly proportions of narcissism and vanity. As the cheeky and effervescent Sonam Kapoor had famously remarked once, “This generation of actresses will leave behind tons of plastic (implants) in crematoriums after their death.” So true! Beauty to me lies in the soul, the spirit and nature…of course, there is no harm in being well-groomed, spruced and shiny, and clean and fresh at all times and is a must for every man and woman in order to present forth a charming and graceful self. But taking it to bizarre levels of surgical procedures, nicks and tucks and invasive, often dangerous operations really gets my goat. My mantra towards a long, happy and beautiful life is simply to be a fit and energetic person who eats right, exercises, smiles often, laps up the wonders of nature and is surrounded by kith and kin forever. 7

I love watching the Rajesh and Mumtaz jodi romancing each other or admiring the timeless beauty of Maharani Gayatri Devi in her classic chiffons and pearls. And I just love to soak my hands and feet in a delicious smelling, soapy, warm water tub for a good old manicure and pedicure every week and getting a head massage whilst I am at it. Skin deep beauty or timeless charm? Take your pick…


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