When Ranveer Singh, long accused of dressing too flamboyantly, stopped dressing altogether, all hell broke loose. The nude photo shoot he did for Paper magazine divided India into two: for and against. On one hand, were FIRs, trolls, memes and an NGO drive for clothes donation, on the other hand, the word ‘bum’ got into the headlines.
A hunk in the buff is not a common sight. Widespread pandering to men and the male gaze when it comes to erotica or porn—the gender that traditionally earned and, therefore, could spend, has engendered a one-sided misogynist market. When it comes to eye candy, the focus is mostly on women, with rare exceptions like the athletic perfection of the statues of Greek gods, the male body painted by artists or even the comic take on male striptease as in the British film, The Full Monty. This is troublesome because not only does the lens not linger enough on men, but women end up without their share of aesthetic galleries to wander in. Their hearts want to race too.
When Ranveer, like model Milind Soman before him, burst upon us in a state of undress, we were… surprised. In most of his films, Ranveer has gone in for clothes that look painted on him; even the policeman uniform is so tight that the fight scenes in Simmba are a marvel of tailoring. His biceps, triceps, abs and calf muscles are there for all to see. It is a toned, honed body and one can immediately respect the long hours put in at gyms. Looking hot is his business.
Any niggling, therefore, is not over his immaculate pecs, it is perhaps over the intended results. Were these pictures meant to shock or to tempt? Are these just a series of poses calculated for us to ooh and aah blandly over a toned body? Because the unfairness of how women are served up in magazine centre spreads compared to men, who only strive to look cool and not come hither, is inherent in such photoshoots.
Of course, this was too good an opportunity for any actor to pass up; the magazine is up there when it comes to visibility. We understand their ask and we understand his nod. So far, so good. But the reasons for, and research behind serving him like that in the flesh, but with no seductive bone in his body presume
more imagination on womenfolk’s part than they possess.
A superstar's sans clothes must have looked good on paper. But in Paper, the oomph is iffy. Ranveer manages to look much sexier with all his clothes on than he does without a stitch on. And that really is our grouse.