Bollywood’s obsession with weight

Raj Baddhan

Senior Editor

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan at Cannes 2012
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan at Cannes 2012

When Aishwarya Rai Bachchan decided to hit the red carpet at Cannes, who knew that her baby weight would cause such an international debate. The Miss World winner was criticised by her fans for not losing her weight fast enough with some going as far as saying she should have had the measurements of Victoria Beckham already. The row began when an unflattering photo of the actress was published online where it did indeed look like the actress had a double chin. However, this issue has not surprised many critics who say that it is her ��duty�۪ to lose weight because she is viewed as a goddess by some and there is an expectation that she should look perfect.

However,��Bachchan is not new to this weight issue. In order to fit into a bikini for ‘Dhoom 2’ (2006), the actress had to lose 1o kilos, however it did help turn her into a sex symbol overnight. After Cannes this year, the actress was forced to comment on her weight saying she does not condone size zero. Addressing the media, she said:��”I am a mother. This can happen and it has happened with me and it’s fine (weight gain). I’ve never been the one who endorses size zero anyway.”

This debate is not new but the fact that fans are imposing it upon their idols is. Bachchan is being compared extensively to Lara Dutta Bhupathi who gave birth��two months after Bachchan��but is now almost back to her normal sexy self and has even launched a Prenatal Yoga DVD to combat post-baby weight gain. Dutta Bhupathi has said that there should be no pressure on women to lose weight post- pregnancy as all women have their own genetic make-up. However, she has also admitted to using a post-natal workout and monitoring her diet to ensure her baby weight falls right off.

The treatment of Bachchan has also riled up other actresses in her defence. Raveena Tandon commented on the issue saying that losing weight post-pregnancy and dieting would affect the child�۪s nutrition and then the media would be chastising them for neglect, they just can�۪t win.

Vidya Balan in 'The Dirty Picture'

Gone are the years where curvaceous and buxom actresses would grace our screens and, minus the pregnancy woes, actresses like Vidya Balan and Zarine Khan have also struggled with their weight on screen. Directors are having a say on what their actresses weigh and some actresses have been overlooked because they are in fact ��too big�۪ for the big screen.

Vidya Balan, known for her heart-wrenching roles, was told she had to gain weight for her role in ‘The Dirty Picture’ (2011). The actress told the Times of India, “For the first time in my career, my director (Milan Luthria) and producer (Ekta Kapoor) told me to put on weight. But I don’t want to. With an Indian face and an Indian body structure, I will manage it. If I increase it for this film, then I will also have to reduce it afterwards.” What difference her weight gain made to the film is debatable as the actress’s unforgettable portrayal of Silk helped her win critical acclaim in the film industry and that was��credit to her acting skills, not her appearance.

Kareena Kapoor sparked a debate when she��became a size zero for her role in�ʉ�Tashan�۪ (2008) to fit into a bikini and hot pants for a song and dance number. The actress had to diet so much that she was fainting on film set and her father was concerned at this daughter’s emaciated appearance. When ‘Tashan’ released, the media gushed at the actress�۪s new body saying she now looked like a ��real woman�۪ because it made her features stand out. Kapoor then endorsed a book by her dietician Rujuta Diwekar called ‘Don�۪t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight’. The actress wrote in the foreword, “My size zero became a topic of national interest. The media asked me if it was diet or exercise. It was a combination of both; 70% diet and 30% exercise-training and yoga.”

Katrina Kaif in 'Tees Maar Khan'

Even Chikni Chameli Katrina Kaif has not escaped the weight police when she lost an excessive amount using diet plans and tedious workouts to get the ��toned look�۪ for her item songs in ��Tees Maar Khan�۪ (2010). Most recently, the actress has lost weight for her upcoming role in ‘Dhoom 3’ , for which she is undergoing gymnastic training following a strict macrobiotic diet.

Size zero is a Hollywood export but it is hitting the Bollywood industry hard. Actresses not only have to keep up with their schedules but have to maintain perfect figures as well. Workouts and diets are only a piece of the pie, they are also being constantly watched by the media for the slightest change in body weight.

The debate very much continues and Indian film actresses, it seems, are bearing the brunt of what is essentially a debate of the western world. Is it media-created or are these thoughts a true reflection of an ideology which is increasingly taking Indian cinema by storm? Audiences will have to wait and watch.