Bollywood Acting 101: Looking Away Shyly
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.
Bollywood Acting 101: Looking Away Shyly
- » Published on August 01, 2007
- » Type: Satire
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Author: Aditi Nadkarni
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