Monday, January 21, 2008

The lust temptation

Have you seen Deepika Padukone closely? There is no one in India who hasn't. Just switch on the television, and you will find her beaming at you from almost every channel. In Om Shanti Om , Deepika's resplendent beauty eclipses Shah Rukh Khan's dynamic charisma whenever the two are together.

Not an easy thing to achieve, but then such is Deepika's attractiveness that the average man is pinioned by the visuals, hoping and praying that her celluloid cut-out will sashay out of the screen for a while. As he watches the vision of Deepika, the haplessly besotted man does not fall in love with her. Instead, he wants to make love to her.

In the article titled 'Hitting above the belt, at the heart' (Times Review, November 25), writer CP Surendran emphasises the exact opposite. Writing a panegyric with Deepika at its centre, Surendran asserts that Bollywood now has the freedom to be less harsh, less coarse, less typecast in the conception of its female characters. He overlooks Sandy, Deepika's second character whose oomph isn't exactly buried by maker Farah Khan, and tells us that why it is possible to love Shanti, and not just lust after her. No one in contemporary Bollywood can evoke tender feelings of love. Simply no one, which is fair enough. Except, of course, Deepika Padukone!

Surendran refers to Sushmita Sen—that classic casualty of casualness—and tells us that it is difficult to come across a more studied persona in Bollywood. But, should one see OSO even once, what is amply obvious is that it is impossible to see a more studied persona than Deepika. Every move she makes, every gesture of hers, seems to have been practised in front of the mirror for days, months, years. Her fluid face is such that her characters can oscillate in time, inhabiting diverse time zones, reminding of a Hema once, a Bipasha next. Her eyes, those large eyes that seem to float as they see, speak the language of understated sensuality.

In OSO , Deepika's Shanti makes SRK's Om stare at her posters, and even endeavour to get an elusive vision by masquerading as someone else. Om being unrealistically stupid, loves Shanti, but not the viewer, who finds an irresistible appeal in her manicured aptitude for concealing the obvious. A heroine who has mastered the craft of subtle allurement, Deepika inspires with her all-consuming glance a feeling far removed from simplistic, unrealistic love?

Emotions in real life are guided by different situations. A lady as sublime as Meryl Streep can be unacceptably incompatible, while an ordinary looker can evoke delicate feelings of love. But, what we experience in reel life isn't vaguely similar, which is understandable since proximity to the star is synonymous with unreachable distance. Not long ago, half of India's men had a common obsession in Aishwarya Rai; but today, Deepika has hijacked the male gaze. The modern viewer loves to indulge in Deepika while knowing that she is far, far away. When he looks at the actress in OSO once she walks into a room, wearing a contemporary outfit and chewing bubble gum, his passion for the actress makes him really happy. When he realises that her vision is the most he can get, which he does, his lips crumble into a satisfied smile.

Let us not doubt that Deepika is a big star meant for even bigger things in life. And, let us not question the fact that her sex appeal has a lot to do with her success. Her Sandy in the second half makes the male heart palpitate wildly; and, not because it is guided by some kind of absurd love for a while. That only happens in the movies.

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