Bipasha Basu, bless her soul and accompanying accessories, has stated that wearing a bikini “is a very difficult job”. It means maintaining a figure that can be ‘flauntable’. Which is why a Shahnaz Husain, for one, doesn’t care much for donning the two-piece apparel officially invented by French designer Jacques Heim in 1946. Monsieur Heim’s invention was named after Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where American atomic weapon tests were conducted a few days before the unveiling of le bikini in Paris. (It was in 1954 that the first hydrogen bomb was also tested at Bikini Atoll, three years before Brigitte Bardot in a bikini in And God Created Woman blinded millions of cine-going eyes.
The bikini, despite its abridged nature, is a tricky piece of clothing. Like the cricket umpire or the football referee, the bikini gains its potency by remaining in the background, emphasising other elements that are the real subjects for viewing. The bikini gained serious currency in 1962 when the world said ‘Yes!’ to Ursula Andress coming out of the waters wearing a white two-piece number in the first Bond movie, Dr No. Closer home, Sharmila Tagore prepared for her future stint as Censor Board chief by wearing a bikini in An Evening in Paris.
The bikini has become ubiquitous in the West, partly due to global warming and partly due to good old evolutionary psychology. Heim had named his radical invention according to the atom bomb-like excitement he thought it would cause. And to think that Bikini Atoll was first named Eschscholtz Atoll after a 19th century German scientist. The big question is whether Brian Hyland would have a pop hit in 1960 called Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Eschscholtz.