Bikini tales — from Sharmila Tagore to Taapsee Pannu — and how it survived the ‘sanskaar’ bully

From the sassy women of the sixties to the young stars these days, all of them have given a damn for the haters and flaunted bikinis. Let’s look at the evolution of the bikini in ‘sanskari' India.
Taapsee Pannu in a still from 'Judwaa 2'. (Photo | Twitter)
Taapsee Pannu in a still from 'Judwaa 2'. (Photo | Twitter)

Actress Taapsee Pannu, who got trolled recently for wearing a bikini, rightly pointed out that women in Bollywood have been flaunting it for decades. From the sassy women of the sixties to the young stars these days, all of them have given a damn for the haters and ‘exposed’ their patriarchal and hypocritical mindsets. Let’s take a look at the evolution of the bikini trend in ‘sanskaari’ India.

The entry of bikinis in Bollywood dates way back to the 1960s. Before the bikini, there was the one-piece swimsuit, and slowly with the shift in fashion around the world, the two-piece became the norm.

If social media existed in the 1960s, we would certainly have heard the cacophony of trolls shouting about the divas of the era lounging in swimsuits and bikinis. Bollywood, which has been a mass influencer, has over the years featured quite a few bikini bods, despite beach fashion never really having caught on with the general public in India.

In 1967, Sharmila Tagore was the first Indian actress to wear a bikini in the movie ‘An evening in Paris’. She also posed for the cover photo of Filmfare magazine wearing a sexy two-piece. That surely must have flown off the shelves like hot cakes.

Sharmila Tagore's iconic bikini looks.
Sharmila Tagore's iconic bikini looks.

Tagore’s bold move seemed to have emboldened others to follow suit, and the list of actress who flaunted bikinis grew longer and longer. Zeenat Aman’s bikini look in the film ‘Qurbani’ was the stuff of many a youngster’s dreams — the scene is of her running on a beach wearing a white bikini.

Zeenat Aman in a <g class=
Zeenat Aman in a
colourful bikini in 'Heera Panna' with Dev Anand." />

Later came the siren Dimple Kapadia, who after the hit ‘Bobby’, repeated her bikini shots in two other films — Saagar and Jaanbaaz.

Parveen Babi was another beauty who in 1982 filmed a scene in ‘Yeh Nazdeekiyan’ featuring her frolicking on a beach in a bikini.

Parveen Babi in 'Yeh Nazdeekiyan'.
Parveen Babi in 'Yeh Nazdeekiyan'.

The 1990s was a time when satellite channels beamed the world into Indian households through cable television and the number of households with a TV began rising steeply. It was during this time that our country presented two beauty queens to the world, Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai. Sushmita was honoured with the Miss Universe title while Aishwarya was awarded the Miss World title. The beauty pageants featured the models wearing swimsuits and winning honours for the country, and served to change the cultural mindset of many an Indian.

Aishwarya Rai (left) and Sushmita Sen (right).
Aishwarya Rai (left) and Sushmita Sen (right).

Slowly, short dresses and bikinis became a part of most Bollywood movies.

Times changed and, with it, the mentality of the people. There were times when parents would not take their children to movies featuring actress in bikinis. But in 21st century India, it’s all par for the course. In fact, now the argument has turned on its head and is no more that Bollywood and the other film industries are fostering a progressive mindset, but that they are objectifying women through popular manifestations of skin show, like the ‘item number’.

But in this digital age where no one can stop themselves from watching anything, it’s seems hypocritical for so-called ‘sanskaari uncles’ to pick on women to uphold what they label Indian culture.

Taapsee Pannu, the Pink star, recently swatted down haters, who invoked the culture bogey when she posted a photo of herself in an aqua floral-print bikini.

In an interview with, the sassy Taapsee took the sting out of body-shaming trolls, when she said she was in fact happy to have faced the ‘backslash’. “I was very happy to receive the backlash. I used to think everyone is getting it, why haven’t I got it yet. So, finally I got it,” she said, thumbing her nose at them.

Recently Bollywood and Hollywood star Priyanka Chopra was trolled for wearing a dress that revealed her legs when she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin.

Priyanka Chopra and PM Modi. 
Priyanka Chopra and PM Modi. 

Dangal star Fatima Sana Shaikh was slut-shamed for dressing in a black swimsuit and chilling out on a beach. Some users on social media said she dressed ‘inappropriately’ during the holy month of Ramzan.

Fatima Sana chilling at the beach.
Fatima Sana chilling at the beach.

Actress Disha Patani of ‘MS Dhoni the untold story’ was trolled for wearing a ‘revealing’ long black dress during the Filmfare awards. Instagram users shamed her for exposing too much and “not respecting Indian culture”.

The actress called out their hypocrisy when she responded: “it’s easier to judge a woman on the basis of how much they cover up their skin, but it’s hard to accept your own cheap mentality when you can’t stop staring at those inappropriate areas which you are asking her to cover”.

“Wake up and start accepting that we are not going to be anybody’s idea of an ‘Indian girl,” she said.

Deepika Padukone has also has been on the list of actresses trolled for their outfit, after her she posted snaps of one of her photo-shoots as the cover girl of a fashion magazine. Users commented calling them ‘vulgar’, ‘cheap’ and ‘disgusting’. She was advised to wear traditional Indian outfits and not insult the Indian culture by exposing her skin in ‘short clothes’. Deepika played it cool by posting more pictures in short clothes.

  Deepika Padukone was slut-shamed for this cover photo but she
           silenced all the trolls by posting more pictures from the Maxim photoshoot.
(Photo | Maxim)

Leave alone film stars, body-shamers did not spare even Indian cricket team captain Mithali Raj. She was also recently trolled for one of her outfits.

Social media has given the public the chance to hide behind their profiles (fake in many cases) and spew hate. But these celebrities have taken it in their stride and shown the crowd it doesn’t matter what they think, and standing up for themselves and, thus, the rights of women in India to wear what they want.

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