Size Zero, Role Zero

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To fit into a Yash Raj film, an actress must fit into a bikini

At some point not so long ago, a scriptwriter sitting deep within the secretive vaults of Yash Raj Films, a production house, decided to write stories about ‘modern’ men and women. According to the writer, all ‘mod’ men—the ideal being Uday Chopra—shave their chests, and talk as though they are extras in an R&B video; all ‘modern’ women do one singularly important thing: they wear bikinis.

But while the men have survived despite the strict metrosexual code of conduct, the bikini has become a portent of doom. The latest casualty is Rani Mukerjee, former leading lady, who has also donned that liberating bathing suit—or at least one half of it. Almost every Yash Raj actress this decade has been forced to wear it, without justification of character or storyline, and in the process, become one-dimensional nitwits. Remember Tanishaa Mukherjee in Neal N Nikki lip syncing, ‘I wanna show my body, groove the night away...’? Why?

Yash Raj Films lives in an India most of us have never been to. The only other person who understands the lay of that land is Ekta Kapoor. It is a histrionic world which has no space for subtlety; where everything must be emoted with hand gestures and high pitch; where a wife will not recognise her husband if he shaves off his moustache and contours his hair; where a full grown woman wearing a patka can pass off as a man; where all women must wear bikinis to show how liberated they are, or to entice men—it’s not important which.

Beguiled by the production house’s successful history under Chopra Sr (who had a similar unexplainable love for chiffon saris), several contemporary Hindi film actresses have recently starved their way into a two-piece in the hope that Aditya Chopra would show a side of them even they didn’t know existed. That he, the inheritor of his father’s wisdom, would, through minimum wardrobe, be able to glamourise, and reboot their careers.

In reality, all it did was reveal a certain desperation, a last-ditch effort that bared not just skin but also the insecurities of actresses desperate to prolong their careers. From Bipasha Basu in Dhoom: II to now Rani Mukerjee, who’s forced her way into one in Dil Bole Hadippa, a bikini is the ultimate weapon of choice for the sadistic men at Yash Raj Films. It’s the price they demand for another chance in front of the camera. It’s what they think a ‘modern’ actress should accept. Little wonder Mukerjee’s friends are saying she’s decided to dump Yash Raj for other directors. Who can starve that much?