More Than Meets the Eye

Over the years, there have been many singers who have loved their drink. Some of them even drank before recordings and during live performances. The mind goes to the legendary KL Saigal, who was famously fond of the bottle. But he has company among the greats. Mukesh comes to mind as does Jagjit Singh. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, of Jagjit Singh as he was singing at a large private wedding party many years ago. An hour into the performance, he was in his spirited elements, rendering a class Sudarshan Fakir ghazal, Gham badhe aate hain qaatil ki nigaahon ki tarah, Tum chhupa lo mujhe aye dost gunaahon ki tarah. The audience, like him, was getting delightedly devilish. Soon he came to the line, Har taraf zeest ki raahon mein kadi dhoop hai dost. As is common with non-film songs in live performances, he repeated this line. Improvising it, he repeated the line again. “Kadi dhoop hai aye dost, kadi dhoop hai…” he kept ornamenting the line. At this time, a restless young man in the audience shouted, Kadi dhoop hai to kaala chashma pehen lo sir!” Jagjit was known to be difficult on the stage, but this was a huge party, and everyone had started laughing, so he smiled and ignored the heckler. You wonder if the singer’s gracefulness also had anything to do with the fact that he loved sunglasses. Most celebrities love them.

So, what is it about sunglasses that is so cool? Why is it that they are seen more as style accessories than as protection for the eyes? When did they transform from a thing of function to one of fashion?

Sunglasses offer so many health benefits for our eyes. When driving an open Jeep or two-wheeler, sunglasses protect us from the punishing hits of the wind. They protect us from the glare of horizontal reflections, especially if it’s a flattish horizon. If you have been to the Arabian Gulf, the noontime glare can be most unforgiving, but a pair of Polaroids will set that right. Shades keep away the dust and exhaust fumes of vehicles. They guard our eyes against radiation and harmful ultra-violet rays. Many people get a headache when out in the sun for some time. Sunglasses make such outings bearable for them. Goggles too offer protection, but the latter are not to be confused with sunglasses. Goggles are what come with a strap, and are worn by skiers and swimmers, to hug the face closely, which means even the sides.

But while some people wear sunglasses for health reasons, many more people wear them for style than for these benefits. The transition from a health aid to a cool accessory started in Hollywood in the 1930s and refuses to die. Over the decades, thanks to increasing fashion awareness around the world, designers have come up with hundreds of styles, while manufacturers have come up with a huge range of costs.

These are some of the popular shapes, and the celebrities associated with them: Wayfarer (Tom Cruise), Simple Black (Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith in Men In Black, 1997), “Bug Eye” (Audrey Hepburn, Paris Hilton), Flat Top Visor (Kim Kardashian), Oversized (Jackie Onassis), Aviator (Elvis Presley), Browline (Malcolm X), and Wireframe (Emily Ratajkowski).  We also have cat-eyes, mirrored, geometric shapes and dozens of other styles.

Because almost everyone can buy shades at a favourable price point, without really sacrificing chic, such eyewear remains in high demand. You can buy sunglasses from extremely cheap (say for 60 Rs, online in India, which is less than one US Dollar), to very very expensive indeed.

At the uppermost end of the price pyramid, this year the costliest ones will set you back by 400,000 US Dollars. That’s about 2.8 crores Rupees. Which means virtually more than 99% car models you can order from showrooms across India, or in fact anywhere in the world. That includes many models of a Ferrari. Whew!

These are the 10 costliest sunglasses of 2018:

  1. $400,000: Chopard
  2. $383,000: Dolce and Gabbana DG2017B
  3. $200,000: Shiels Emerald
  4. $159,000: Cartier Panthere
  5. $65,000: Luxuriator Canary Diamond
  6. $59,000: Bulgari Flora
  7. $55,000: Gold and Wood 253 Diamond
  8. $30,000: Gold and Wood 119 Diamond
  9. $27,000: Lugano Diamonds
  10. $25,000: Cartier 18K Gold

We don’t know how many Indians own any of these, but we do know of several actors who were seen wearing sunglasses in a song. Here are some such songs, with the names of the actors wearing them:

  • Ashok Kumar and Nalini Jaywant: Ulfat ke jaadu ka dil mein asar hai (Sangram, 1950)
  • Pradeep Kumar: Aankhon pe bharosa mat kar (Detective, 1958)
  • Premnath: Main deewaana mastaana (Forty Days, 1959)
  • Ashok Kumar: Dil dhoondta hai sahaare sahaare (Kaala Aadmi, 1960)
  • Sunil Dutt: Jaane na jaane tu hi na jaane (Bhai Behen, 1969)
  • Moti Sagar: Mausam ye pukaare masti mein le chal (Burma Road, 1962)
  • Shashi Kapoor: Saawan ki raaton mein ayesa bhi hota hai (Prem Patra, 1962)
  • Shashi Kapoor: Ye mere andhere ujaale na hote (Prem Patra, 1962)
  • Chandrashekhar and Helen: Tumse maano na maano mujhe tumse (Cha Cha Cha, 1964)
  • Mehmood: Ajhun na aaye baalma saawan beeta jaaye (Saanjh Aur Savera, 1964)
  • Rajendra Kumar: Chhalke teri aankhon se sharaab aur ziyaada (Arzoo, 1965)
  • Ashok Kumar: Chhupa lo yoon dil mein pyaar mera (Mamta, 1966)
  • Raj Kapoor: Chale jaana zara thehro kisi ka dum nikalta hai (Around The World, 1967)
  • Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini: Zindagi ik safar hai suhaana (Andaz, 1971)
  • Rajesh Khanna: Duniya mein logon ko dhoka kabhi ho jaata his (Apna Desh, 1972)
  • Dinesh Thakur: Kayi baar yoon hi dekha hai (Rajnigandha, 1974)
  • Govinda: Pak chik pak Raja Babu (Raja Babu, 1994)
  • Shahrukh Khan: Ye dil deewaana (Pardes, 1997)
  • Shahrukh Khan: Chaand taare tod laoon (Yes Boss, 1997)
  • Saif Ali Khan: Jise dhoondta hoon main har kaheen in (Dil Chahta Hai, 2001)
  • Akshay Kumar and Arjun Rampal: Phatela jeb sil jaayega, jo chaahe mil jaayega (Aankhen, 2002)
  • Arshad Warsi: Bole to bole to kaisi hogi bhai (Munnabhai, 2006)
  • Abhishek Bachchan: Saiyaan chhed deve, nanad chutki leve, sasural genda phool (Delhi 6, 2009)
  • Siddharth Malhotra and Katrina Kaif: Tenu kaala chashma jachda hai (Baar Baar Dekho, 2016)

Sunglasses are old and can be traced back to ancient China, where they were originally used to protect the eyes from glare. Somewhere along the line, the Chinese realised that sunglasses were useful not just for looking out, but in preventing others from looking in. As such, Chinese judges began wearing them in courts to hide their expressions when interrogating witnesses. However, witnesses were not allowed to wear them in court. Today the rules have changed, and are different in different countries, or even their states. In general though, people in the dock should avoid wearing them, because studies have shown that you have a lower chance of convincing people of your innocence while wearing shades. Attorneys advise us to wear clear spectacles, even if they are not prescription glasses. You’re seen to be more honest that way.


Originally appeared in DNA Jaipur page 13 on 30 December 2018

Featured image: from Zindagi ik safar hai suhaana 

2 Replies to “More Than Meets the Eye”

  1. So interesting! For once I wasn’t looking at the list of songs. But I did notice many more entries for after the ’70s… I guess by then the sunglasses or “shades” as they are called by the “hip” crowd had really caught on! Had no idea how much sunglasses could cost. So, I remember only hearing the word “goggles” until I went to high school maybe, in the late ’70s. Was the word “sunglasses” introduced recently? Or did my family just catch on late? 🙂
    Cool! Super cool!! A stylish end to 2018!

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