Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ranbir Kapoor in Saawariya
Redefining Male Sexuality

There is one song sequence in Saawariya that is being much talked about. It is the one in which Ranbir Kapoor, playing Raj in the movie, dances around his apartment clad in nothing but a bath towel. As he gyrates to the tunes of his own song, Raj dares to bare it all in front of the audience. It is not the first time that male actors have shown skin in Bollywood movies. Salman Khan was the one who really started the trend that was soon picked up by almost everyone in the Industry.

However, the depiction of Ranbir's body is very different from, say, Salman's. Salman is the apostle of the macho male image. He displays a muscular, hunk-like, well sculpted body that projects the male body as something strong and tough. Ranbir, while he is well sculpted, is not muscular. He is firm but not violently strong.

In short, Bhansali is projecting an image of his hero that is metrosexual in nature. It is a hero who does not get embarrassed in dancing in a towel in front of his audience. It is a hero who does not get embarrassed in dancing like his female peers.

A conversation that a friend of mine had with a female acquaintance of his is interesting in this context. She said that the whole song-and-dance sequence with Ranbir in the towel was very awkward for her. She didn't like it. When I saw the sequence last evening I was thinking that it was put in to attract the female audience. But apparently, girls don't like it. At least the conservative ones don't.

So what are Ranbir and his towel doing in Bhansali's movie?

They are redefining male sexuality as depicted in Bollywood movies. The new attractive male does not care about being strong and muscular. As long as he is beautiful, he is happy. And he is not loath to flaunt his physical beauty the same way that women to. In this sense, it is also a blurring of gender boundaries at the level of how bodies are percieved by men and women.

Combine that with Bhansali's own obsession with the female side – his taking on his mother's name as a middle name; and his clear obsession with women in Saawariya – Raj is the only significant male appearance throughout the movie, and you have a very strong incidence of how the directors vision of the world does indeed get captured in cinema, albeit in a rather subtle form.

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  1. Hi, I found all your Saawariya posts really interesting, especially this one. I found Raj's character really intriguing myself, but at the same time terribly disappointing. I've wondered if it's just the way the film ended up, or Ranbir's newbie acting skills, or what....
    anyway, I've tried to respond more fully to your post here,

    if you get bored or curious enough, have a look!

  2. Nice blog... gr88 writing skills.
    Liked the IIT Lingo and sawariya post. I did not read others...

    I have a blog too, its related to interview puzzles.

  3. good observations about bhansali and his psychological reasons for doing so...anyway, i am a girl and totally love the song :P..really ..and off course I am not conservative