Ask six men to define the brand of sexiness that eight hot women can be said to have, and you would imagine that they would jump at the chance.
Three men – comedian Sajid Khan, ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar and Suhel Seth, managing partner of Counselage Indya – threw themselves into their roles as judges with great enthusiasm. But the others thought hard about the concept of sexiness before they made their comments, and one man – filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt – refused to comment at all.
"All ideas of sexuality and emancipation are imposed,” said Bhatt.
"These are ideas that you wear, concepts that you flash and roles that you live up to. Once the mask is on the face, you forget the face. And masks change with time. Right now, Indianness is getting lost in the homogenised American world of MTV. So someone who holds on to her Indianness is seen as something new." The ‘masks’ bothered photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta and filmmaker Rituparna Ghosh as well. "If you don’t know the person, you can only judge him or her by what you see," said Ghosh. "So I make my comments only on the basis of the roles I have seen these actresses in." That understood, here are the verdicts delivered by our judges.
Cute’ is the word that is most often used to describe Preity Zinta. That, and ‘bubbly’. But the word Prahlad Kakkar prefers to use about the girl Rituparno Ghosh and Prabuddha Dasgupta describe as ‘girl next door’, is fun. "She’s not fantasy material, though she can be," says Kakkar. "But she is fun. You can have champagne with her in bed, and you can laugh with her in bed. With her, what you get is what you see."
With Kareena K apoor, sexiness is about power. As Suhel Seth says, she knows where she comes from, and with a background like hers, there is power. And power can be, as anyone knows, incredibly sexy.
"Though she is sexy in a baby doll sort of way, she knows her power," says Prahlad Kakkar. "She flirts outrageously with her eyes, and if she likes you, she turns on like a Christmas tree. But like Sushmita Sen, she can also chill you to the bone. Kareena, I think, is both fire and ice." The ice must definitely be there because, says Sajid Khan, Kareena leaves him cold. And Prabuddha Dasgupta has not seen enough of her to make any comment.
But it is Rituparno Ghosh who has the most different take on Kareena’s brand of sexiness. "She was both charming and vulnerable in Omkara," he muses.
When Rituparno Ghosh saw Bipasha Basu in Omkara, he was astounded by the way she "declassed" herself.
"The Bipasha in Omkara is completely different from the Bipasha in Corporate," he says. "In Corporate, she is a woman with a strong personality. I think what she did in Omkara is completely different from herself."
Strong she is – in that quintessentially sexy Bengali woman way. "She is fo cused on what she wants," says Suhel Seth. "Intellectually innocent, but what she lacks in soul, she more than makes up for in body."
For Prabuddha Dasgupta, Bipasha’s appeal has lessened somewhat. "I found her sexier earlier, before her stardom, when it was more natural and spontaneous. Seems a bit effortful now. All that Bollywood pancake and pressure, I guess."
But for Prahlad Kakkar, one thing gets in the way of Bipasha’s oomph. John Abraham.
Say ‘Mallika Sherawat and the answer seems to run only on one track. "Obvious".
Sajid Khan dismisses her in the same way that he dismisses Aishwarya. For him, sexiness lies in the eyes, not the body. "There is nothing unique about her," says Prahlad Kakkar. And that sentiment is echoed by Prabuddha Dasgupta who feels that though Mallika is "definitely more spirited, and therefore not antiseptic," the fact that she changed so much about herself to become what she is now is not terribly attractive. "I’m not saying it’s wrong," says Dasgupta. "The glamour world has its own parameters and rules. But all that conforming to me denudes the intrinsic appeal."
Suhel Seth acknowledges that Mallika has "raw sex appeal", but says that she is "our version of Pygmalion, but no one in their right mind would ever want to discuss being Professor Higgins with her."
But Mallika has a champion in Rituparno Ghosh. "I saw her in her first film with Himanshu Malik (Khwahish)," he says. "People were talking about the boy, but I was wondering who this girl is. She was wearing glasses and was very girlnext-door. Later, I was told she was the girl in Murder, and I was astonished."
Prahlad Kakkar is hot in his defence of Aishwarya Rai’s hotness – she is clever, he says, because she does not waste her sexuality on just anyone. "A lot of people think she’s cold, but I think she’s exceptionally sexy," says Kakkar. "If she wants to focus on you, she can melt your trousers from half a mile away."
Rituparno Ghosh, who only finds a person attractive if he or she possesses a strong combination of power and vulnerability, sees in Aishwarya a strong, controlled personality. But neither Sajid Khan nor Suhel Seth find her appealing at all.
"Sexy is about the eyes, not about a great body," says Khan, while Seth dismisses her as "sexy, but do-not-touch. Aishwarya is a piece for the museum."
She has often been described as ‘the thinking man’s sex symbol’. "Whatever that means!" says Prabuddha Dasgupta. "Nandita Das has a strong ideology and earns her respect through her craft rather than her looks and body. Wish she’d celebrate her body once in a while, though."
That, in a way, is how Rituparno Ghosh feels about Nandita too. "The problem with filmmakers," he says, "Is that we tend to typecast people. We were looking for a replacement for Smita Patil, and we forcibly put Nandita in that slot. And since viewers don’t know her, they judge her by what they see."
But Prahlad Kakkar has a completely different take on Nandita. "She is very sexy in her way," he says, "But a little too conscious of the fact that a lot of men desire her."
There is no argument about Sushmita Sen’s brand of sexy. For Sajid Khan, she is India’s answer to Hollywood actress Rene Russo – very hot in many ways. "She’ll only get better with age," he says.
Prabuddha Dasgupta has a long string of adjectives to apply to Sushmita. "Strong, earthy, self-assured, individualistic, outspoken, unconventional, willing to push the envelope," he says.
"Very sexy attributes in my book." But if you think you should take her home to mother, forget it, says Suhel Seth. "She’s surely the finest hottie to date, but never to carry to any altar," he says.