SATIRE

Bollywood Acting 101: Looking Away Shyly

August 01, 2007
Aditi Nadkarni

The couple is atop a slow moving tonga. O.P Nayyar's music is beating miraculously in sync with the clicking hooves. Now no matter what the hero says, sings, whispers, bellows, mutters, we all know what's coming: the heroine ducks her head, giggles and then just as the camera moves in, her kohl-lined, mascara tinged, eye-liner framed eyes, look up, then down, then up again before she bites her lip and looks away, even more coyly, if that were possible. This is the "Looking Away Shyly" phenomenon that has preserved the virginal, chaste image of Bollywood heroines.

Sharmila Tagore, Saira Banu, Vaijyantimala, Rajeshri, Rakhi and many more Bollywood damsels quickly mastered the art of "looking away shyly". If one wondered that this custom would dwindle with changing times their doubts were swiftly put to rest. Mumtaaz refined that very art with a pout, while Hema Malini lit it up with a hundred watt smile. Madhuri added the bosom heave to spruce it up and more recently Bipasha Basu added to the look, a subtle squint. But the art of "looking away shyly" has survived all Bollywood metamorphosis.

The heroine's very persona was and still is defined by the way she looks toward the camera. The likes of Nutan, Vaheeda Rehman and Geeta Bali were bolder and hence flashed their eyes at the camera while the shy ones looked away. In "Chori Chori" when an arrogant, spoilt Nargis is finally tamed by the indifferent Raj Kapoor, her transformation is made visible by fleeting moments of "looking away shyly". Asha Parekh's entire career probably rests on a record-breaking instances of this look.

The heroine was always a picture of demure meekness while vamps, shook their booties and wore sleevless gowns cut at the thigh, their cleavage deeper than Amrish Puri's voice, their bodices more conspicious than Mehmood's moustache. Later Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi, Tina Munim and Dimple Kapadia portrayed the sexy shrews and there was nothing shy about their look. They were promptly labelled the rambunctious outliers.

"Looking away shyly" is now a ubiquitous chapter of Bollywood Acting 101. Aishwarya Rai's "looking away shyly" coupled with a few histrionics has led to three Filmfare awards. Kareena Kapoor has managed to "look away shyly" while quite minimally clad. Amrita Rao's "looking away shyly" has resulted in several successful Bollywood stints. Recently, while watching the nauseatingly saccharine "Vivah", I realized that some actresses have now cleverly learned to substitute this countenance for all emotions portrayed on camera. In "Namaste London", when Katrina Kaif denounces the alleged depravity of "Western culture" and embraces a Punjabi munda, she does so while, you guessed it right..."looking away shyly".

The "looking away shyly" bearing has had to evolve reluctantly in these past few of years. There are those who have brought this skill, a face of their own. While Vidya Balan's intelligent eyes add a spark to the bashful look, Rani Mukerji's naughty smile adds to it some mischief. Since the average Bollywood heroine's sense of fashion has changed so drastically in recent years, the "looking away shyly" expression doesn't quite sit right, above a bold and plunging neckline.

So mostly when the tinselmaids are "looking away shyly" in the reel world, we, the counterparts in the real world are raising a brow at the screen, looking away....and rolling our eyes.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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#1
oley-ola
August 1, 2007
11:17 AM

I'm Fed up of these pseudo-intelligent ppl. what's your point? what do you want tp prove? That heroines should not look coy??? Or should they???

#2
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
August 1, 2007
11:32 AM

Prove?! Ha! Well, I am fed-up of people who will pull a debate out of their ass over a satirical piece. Its not a critique or a review.

Does everything have to be good/bad so you can then take sides and have a nice cleansing battle? One cannot have an article chronicling a common acting genre used in Bollywood?

Ykw, I'd much rather be a pseudointellectual than an obvious dumb fck who goes around looking for a fight, labeling people and missing the whole point.

Get yourself a sense of humor.

#3
Amrita
URL
August 1, 2007
12:18 PM

Hahaha Aditi - I don't know which was funnier, your post or your reply to the comment above. :D

I never really paid attention to it because itrao-ing and sharmao-ing is such a part and parcel of the whole actress gig but as I was reading it, an image of Amrita Rao floated up before me and OH MY GOD! You're SO right!

#4
Jay
August 1, 2007
01:36 PM

Haha, another funny one Aditi! I HATED Vivah and I absolutely HATE the overt bashfulness of actresses who have no qualms about baring their skin but duck and giggle due to a peck on the cheek. Kareena Kapoor & Amrita Rao irritate the crap outta me. The other day I was trying to see what twas about the new Umrao Jaan that killed it compared to the old one by Rekha and then I realized that they have turned the new one into a love story between the Nawab and Umrao Jaan rather than making it Umrao Jaan's story. As a result you have Rai squirming coyly and making eyes at Baby Bachchan when she is supposed to be a tawaif exhuding bold sensuality, like Rekha did in Umrao jaan and Madhuri Dixit did in Devdas.

#5
PH
URL
August 1, 2007
01:36 PM

their cleavage deeper than Amrish Puri's voice, their bodices more conspicious than Mehmood's moustache.

Hahaha, those were two verry cool analogies:)

#6
Aspi
URL
August 1, 2007
04:17 PM

For my money, all the actresses might as well give it up because no one does itraoing over cleavage better than Himesh Reshammiya. God bless him!

#7
temporal
URL
August 2, 2007
07:27 AM

adi:

:)

counter argument just off the top

shabana azmi
nandita das
the sens (both mother and daughter)


caveat: not all their films:)

#8
Uma
URL
August 2, 2007
08:55 AM

I've always longed to look away shyly. But if I couldn't manage it at 21 I doubt I'm going to succeed in my fifties. Do you think I could give it a bash anyways? After all we only live once.

#9
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
August 2, 2007
09:39 AM

Hey Guys,

Thank you for the comments!

Amrita: Glad you found it funny. Oley-Ola caught me in the morning when I'm usually crabby and potty-mouthed :)

Jay: Uggh, hated the new and farsical Umrao Jaan! And you are SO right!

PH: :) Glad you enjoyed those analogies!

Aspi: Really? Now I have to watch that guy more carefully next time.

Temporal: Yeah, I do mention a few outliers who did not conform to the "looking away shyly" protocol and hence got labeled as the "sexy sirens" like Sen did (if you mean Mun Mun Sen that is). Shabana Azmi was not very mainstream and the ones she was in, she did look away shyly (Amar Akbar Anthony) :) But you are right, there are quite a few who don't do the shy look, or probably cant! I have yet to see Ms.Zinta pull an effective one.

Uma: I say go for it!! Experience says we get better at faking stuff with age. Hehe. Lemme know how it goes :D

Appreciate the comments you guys!

#10
Aditi Nadkarni
URL
August 2, 2007
09:39 AM

Hey Guys,

Thank you for the comments!

Amrita: Glad you found it funny. Oley-Ola caught me in the morning when I'm usually crabby and potty-mouthed :)

Jay: Uggh, hated the new and farsical Umrao Jaan! And you are SO right!

PH: :) Glad you enjoyed those analogies!

Aspi: Really? Now I have to watch that guy more carefully next time.

Temporal: Yeah, I do mention a few outliers who did not conform to the "looking away shyly" protocol and hence got labeled as the "sexy sirens" like Sen did (if you mean Mun Mun Sen that is). Shabana Azmi was not very mainstream and the ones she was in, she did look away shyly (Amar Akbar Anthony) :) But you are right, there are quite a few who don't do the shy look, or probably cant! I have yet to see Ms.Zinta pull an effective one.

Uma: I say go for it!! Experience says we get better at faking stuff with age. Hehe. Lemme know how it goes :D

Appreciate the comments you guys!

#11
Aspi
URL
August 2, 2007
11:38 AM

Uma, you should do it, but only if you upload the video on YouTube so we can all watch it.

#12
Anindita Sengupta
URL
August 2, 2007
12:05 PM

LOL...wonderful post! So much said, and so well.

#13
oley-ola
August 7, 2007
10:33 AM

if someone is so "potty" mouthed in the morning when ppl are the freshest how will they be in the afternoon & evening. no wonder they write such potty articles. after reading the kind of language in ur reply i dread meeting a person like u in real life by any misfortune. yuck !! i feel like throwing up. just cant believe u r a cancer researcher & blah blah. if one can have an opinion on a horde of bollywood heroines from the past to the present why do they call someone names for having an opinion on their article. i genuinely feel ur article is pointless & based on a very very trivial matter.Looking away shyly??? is that something to write home abt?? writing the review of a movie would have much better. what's wrong with heroines being demure, i fail to understand.Aishwarya Rai's "looking away shyly" coupled with a few histrionics has led to three Filmfare awards? what a sweeping & exaggerated statement. i bet it took her more than that. anyway, shy or no shy the winner is aishwarya because she finally won the awards. if amrrita rao blushed in vivah shahid kapoor too blushed in equal measure! who would wish to see a potty mouthed & repulsive heroine anyway? sense of humour?? that doesnt sound credible from a potty mouth ! satirical piece? really??and before i get some more of the potty mouthed abuses i must run for my life from here& never come back. TATA

#14
oley-ola
August 7, 2007
10:40 AM

oh 1 more thing . clear this sterotype. a prostitute is not a tigress waiting to eat up the men comin to her. she is also a normal woman. so for me the new umrao jaan was more realistic than the rekha one. here umrao was shown as a normal woman who has normal hopes & aspiorations from life. she behaves like a normal woman with her lover. she just happpens to be a prostitute because of the situations in her life.

#15
Saarthi
August 7, 2007
10:58 AM

In reference to comment 13
Aditi I think oley-ola sounds like a pissed off Ash fan :D I have never heard a sane person say that the new Umrao Jaan was more "realistic"!!!! Haha

I am an editor and I liked this piece so much that our paper would now like to run a few of your Bollywood humor chronicles like these! I hope you received my email.

(And by the way your comment 2 wasn't all that potty-mouthed really. I am much worse in the mornings, especially if certain somebodys can't have a sense of humor!!!)

Regards. S

#16
Sandeep
August 10, 2007
07:08 PM

Hey Aditi,
I am sure u r feeling lucky to be dreaded by people. Thank god u r saved from meeting someone who judged u just on reply he recieved.

Look at the perks of the reply, now even I am planning to sharpen my replies.

Well also I am enlightened now to know that lead actress or even the side kicks who dont shy or look coy are supposed to be potty and repulsive. will keep that in mind.


I am still waiting for relation of prostitute, looking coy, tigress, eating man and the reference to latest version of Umrao jaan. did I blinked and missed it?

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