Thursday, February 12, 2009

You Got Male!

Is the new Indian woman looking 'differently' at the male? Is the new Indian male looking 'differently' at himself? Is voyeurism suddenly going unisex? 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri probes the new-age phenomenon firing up ad-world!

Actually, Salman Khan started it all. Declaring a flamboyant fatwa against shirts, he converted flaunting his bare-chested, well-toned machismo into a sexual statement that drove a zillion female fans wild while earning envious looks from the guys. Today its come to a situation where (like the gasp-pant Zeenie baby of the seventies) many can’t recognise ‘Sallubhai’, fully clothed! Presently John Abraham’s red-hot number in Dostana, is giving both hotties Shilpa and Piggy Chops a run for money! The way his languorous moves have been choreographed and the passionate love-affair the camera seems to conduct with Johnny-boy … man, ‘you got male’!

Beyond Sallu, John, and SRK’s sexy 6-pack abs flash, Ranbir’s (oooops!) wardrobe dysfunction in Saawariya and Aamir’s new, killer body in Ghajini, lies a slew of ads saluting the male form – with women, actively co-opted as enthusiastic participants! Be it the Euro Brief slugs where the young dude gets ‘assaulted’ (with lipstick marks!) the AXE effect TVCs, Moods’ condom ads (where the babe nibbles her guy’s ears) and the latest Akshay Kumar’s lethal unbuttoned ad, the male, suddenly, is taking centre stage and women seem delighted to play avid, rah-rah audience!

As the song says, what’s goin’ on?

Gushes the Delhi-based ad veteran Esha Guha, “As the ad says, why should boys have all the fun? For centuries, women have played dedicated objects of desire to men’s hungry eyes. Isn’t it time to hit the role-reversal button?” The ‘unputdownable’ Guha argues that in today’s world where women go eyeball-to-eyeball with men in the professional, financial and social zone, why should they suddenly play cute n’ shy away from the delicious sport called male-gazing!

Young copy-writer Payal Sinha is delighted (“Wow, Some Lady”!) at this response from someone who represents a generation who, (mostly) would reach for smelling salts before attempting to coherently articulate their (Shock? Disgust?) opinion. “I think our generation looks at the very concept of sexuality differently – the urban, middle-class, educated community, that is. There is neither the hush-hush, behind closed-doors factor, the sex-is-sin belief, nor the shy, feminine, mega blush-flush at the very mention of the S word.” Payal elaborates by saying that the new-age woman is pretty savvy and clued-in and with the huge exposure in the public domain – TV, movies, radio, Internet – as well as everyday life and living, the male body is (normally) not totally alien country!
Creative Director Moon-Moon Dhar joins the party with unbridled ecstasy! “This stuff was long overdue and I have no hesitation in saying that I went to Dostana just to ogle! Johnny-boy was truly an eye-candy!” Toning the pitch down a bit, the bindaas mother of two believes that today’s men too are less self-conscious about flashing-flesh or getting paranoid if their partners drool. “My hubby is, by turn, amused or threatening to get those 6-pack abs, very soon. It’s cool.”

Home-maker Vidya Baluja feels like throwing up! “My god, its blatant sexism, male-style … and it’s so much more yucky!” She believes that there are certain areas of life, which indeed exist but should be celebrated only in the private space. “All this dramabazi exhibitionism is so vulgar! Sure there will always be a lunatic fringe that will wow the toned and chiseled male form but generally speaking, most sane, balanced, intelligent women will view this new-age disrobing of inhibitions in a startled, amused and embarrassed way.”

Journo Bina Khanna adds her spin to it. “I really think too much is being made of this male-gazing – thanks to the Dostana factor – and it’s more media-generated than real!” Khanna believes that the recent hungama is because traditionally, its always been the politically correct thing for men to drool, salivate and play the raging-hormone voyeur. Suddenly (Globalisation? Gladrags?), there has been a change in the mindset among a segment of society that have woken up to this role-reversal and embraced it with unholy glee! This has toppled the apple-cart and brought something hugely private and hush-hush tumbling out of the closet into the streets…

Khanna could well have hit the nail on the head. The new-age woman is different from her mother-in-law in many ways, mindset, heading the list. She is socially, intellectually, financially and professionally up there with men and suffers no complex about it. Individual liberation through sexuality is emerging as a major tool to break feudalism in society. Also, in an age of suppressed libido, celebration of the male body by women is liberating, balancing the man-woman equation and making commodification of culture a two-way street. Besides, in a time and age when women are breaking every mould in life and rewriting the rules of the game, it’s time to celebrate choices, stop living in a man’s-idea-of-woman world, go with the flow and coin a whole, new and exciting word – DIRECT MALE!


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