It all started in 1966, when Dharmendra, mainstream cinema’s first action hero, bared his torso for OP Ralhan’s Phool aur Pathar. The girls went wild. The men went green.
Then, for 20 years, nothing.
Bollywood’s next bare-chest sighting was only in 1986, when Anil Kapoor took off his shirt and romanced Dimple Kapadia in the song Jaane Jaana from Janbaaz, hairy chest and all.
The unbuttoning opened the floodgates for more.
Dharmendra’s oldest son Sunny Deol joined the industry, his inherently muscular physique perfect for shirtless scenes. It popped up so often in films that there came a point when Deol insisted he’d take off his shirt only if the script demanded it. So writers obliged – they sneaked in a shirtless fight sequence into all their films.
The Eighties and Nineties also saw Bollywood’s favourite bad boy Sanjay Dutt baring his goods in many movies. Darkened cinema halls showed Dutt getting drenched in the rain singing Aakhir Tumhe Aana Hai in Feroz Khan’s Yalgaar. The actor’s looks, height, physique and stylish walk made him the perfect action hero. So what if he couldn’t dance?
Putting On A Show
"Men make good eye candy for a lot of people, so it’s okay when they show off their body," says actor and filmmaker Arbaaz Khan, who’s currently shooting with Salman Khan for the sequel of Dabangg. Salman, of course, knew all about this when he debuted in Maine Pyar Kiya back in 1989.
His pectorals made a lasting impression on his co-star Bhagyashree as well as the audience. The body however, was to undergo a transformation 10 years later. A newly beefed up Salman, sporting torn jeans, sculpted torso and arms thicker than a starlet’s waist, took it off again to sing Oh Oh Jaane Jaana in Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya.
And that’s when things start to get interesting. Akshay Kumar, John Abraham and even Shah Rukh Khan came around to the idea of appearing un-shirted and even going a step further. Abraham, by sliding his trunks down a notch, raised the bar for showing it off. His half exposed posterior was enough to get Dostana the hype it needed.
For viewing pleasure
Arbaaz Khan believes that when it comes to stripping for the screen, men have it better. "Women are made to expose for the wrong reasons, but for men, there is more justification," he says.
That’s hard to see on the posters of Pooja Bhatt’s new film Jism 2. Facing Sunny Leone is a semi-nude Randeep Hooda. "When I made Jism, I had women from all age groups come up to me and say, ‘Thank you. Finally someone has shown us men the way we like to see them’." she says.
It gave her the confidence to push the envelope further with the sequel. "I told Randeep at the start: ‘Everyone knows you look good and you can act, but for Jism 2, I want to show people something that they have not seen before’." There’s a porn star in the main cast, but Bhatt says this film will "cater to the women who are waiting to see the men".
Men, however, aren’t as excited about taking it off. "Men are as coy to shoot such scenes as women," reveals Bhatt. "I shot a scene where Sunny has to touch Randeep’s nipples. It was a shocker even to my dad [Mahesh Bhatt]. Hot scenes are not just about taking clothes off, there has to be a story, an emotional chord to make it look classy."
Tusshar Kapoor’s promo image for his upcoming film Kya Super Cool Hain Hum spoofs Abraham’s pose from Dostana and has made the headlines too – Kapoor was trending on Twitter the day the image released. "I did it for the humour of it and it goes with the flow in the film.
I thought I would be shy but I was not." The reactions to his new avatar, however, were mixed. "I showed it to my family and they were quite happy. I got a lot of negative reactions on Twitter but that’s all right. It was fun," he says.
From HT Brunch, July 8
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