Wisdom in Swimwear

I often laugh at beauty pageants. It’s fine with me that they require women to wear swimsuits if not bikinis, never mind that most of these contests do not need women to actually swim or surf. Flat tummies and long legs, great manicure, eyelashes and hairdos, with hints of sexuality thrown in; girls need to show up with all these, but that is as it should be. As prescribed on the much-navigated roadmap to a crown, these women also try to conduct themselves with predictable poise and charm, a million dollar smile and attitude, which is perfectly ok as well. It’s when these women are asked their views on matters affecting the world that I chuckle. These are heavy questions typically asked of important people like Amartya Sen, Muhammad Yunus or Larry Pressler in important forums like BBC television. It gets really hilarious if these girls are brought onto the stage in swimwear and asked to speak their mind in a quick-fire, 20-second philosophy round, just after they have finished showing off their bodies and strutted about for several minutes. To be fair, it would be equally funny if after a heavy interview, such gents as named above flaunted their bodies in their 3-piece suits. People should stick to the knitting, at least for the sake of credibility.

It is not that beautiful women do not have brains. Many do. In fact, some beautiful women have truly outstanding things to say about poverty in India, or racism in America, or the glass ceiling around the world, and matters similarly significant for the human race. But many more women of the kind that do not participate in such pageants have a better understanding of issues of such gravitas, at least to qualify better for becoming brand ambassadors of a cause, a responsibility that is given to winners of beauty events.

Not many people actually take these ladies seriously either. Most people, beautiful or otherwise, just do not have enough wisdom and knowledge at such a young age. As such, expecting young girls who are heavily focussed on a two-dimensional existence, to promote universal peace and eradicate poverty with a few seconds’ worth of wisdom can be quite hilarious. No wonder many of the on-stage replies we have heard have lacked cerebral content or relevance. Here are just a couple of instances.

At the Miss World contest in 2000, Miss India Priyanka Chopra was asked, “Who do you think is the most successful woman living today, and why?” Her reply: “There are a lot of people I admire, but one of the most admirable people is Mother Teresa, who has been so compassionate, considerate and kind”. Even if we accept her interchange between successful and admirable, Mother Teresa was not a living person when Ms Chopra was questioned.

That was a minor faux pas. Here’s a major one. At the Miss Panama pageant in 2009, contestant Giosue Cozarelli was asked, ”Explain the following quote by Confucius: Learning without thought is labour lost”. Her reply was classic: “Good evening Panama! Confucius was one of whom invented confusion, and that’s why, er, one of the most ancient, he was one of the Chinese, Japanese, who was one of the most ancient. Thank you!”

Thanks Miss, we learnt something today.

Unlike ramp models, film and stage actresses usually offer more depth. Typically, they are not only older than beauty pageant contestants, but the nature of their work makes it necessary for them to understand other people and cultures. That’s how they are able to get under the skin of the character they’re essaying. When such actresses expose more of their own skin by wearing swimsuits, they receive more approval.

All the following ladies have been women of substance, and have worn swimwear in films: Lalita Pawar, Nutan, Nargis, Nalini Jaywant, Tanuja, Raakhi, Neetu Singh, Sharmila Tagore, Saira Banu, Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi, Dimple Kapadia, Moon Moon Sen, Mandakini and there are plenty others. More recently, loads of actresses have been seen wearing bikinis, with Mallika Sherawat and Bipasha Basu taking the lead in such appearances. Some actresses have also been featured in songs while their swimsuits or bikinis are on. Here are instances as these ladies were singing or were sung to:

  • Nalini Jaywant: Ulfat ke jaadu ka dil mein asar hai (Sangram, 1950)
  • Nargis: Tumko fursat ho meri jaan to idhar dekh to lo (Bewafa, 1952)
  • Saira Banu: Aa gale lag ja (April Fool, 1964)
  • Vyjayanthimala: Mere man ki Ganga (Sangam, 1964)
  • Tanuja: Baag mein kali khili (Chaand Aur Suraj, 1965)
  • Helen: Is duniya mein jeena ho to sun lo meri baat (Gumnaam, 1965)
  • Parveen Chowdhury: Ye tu ne kya kaha (Insaaf, 1965)
  • Sadhana: Surat haseen lagta hai deewaana (Budtameez, 1966)
  • Sharmila Tagore: Aasmaan se aaya farishta (An Evening In Paris, 1967)
  • Helen again: Kis qadar zaalim ho qaatil (Dil Ne Pukaara, 1967)
  • Mumtaz: Dil mera tumhaari adaayen le gayeen (Gauri, 1968)
  • Hema Malini: Lehra ke aaya hai (Waaris, 1969)
  • Jaishree T: Aana to sajni din ko aana (Raaton Ka Raja, 1970)
  • Aruna Irani: Haaye haaye thanda paani (Bombay To Goa, 1972)
  • Leena Chandavarkar: Sundar ho aisi tum chalo (Dil Ka Raja, 1972)
  • Zeenat Aman: Main tasweer utaarta hoon (Heera Panna, 1973)
  • Nazneen: Jaana kahaan hai, pyaar yahaan hai (Chalte Chalte, 1976)
  • Tina Munim: Tu pee aur jee (Des Pardes, 1978)
  • Sharmila Tagore again: O mere bechain dil ko chain tu ne diya (Aamne Saamne, 1967)

And more recently:

  • Kajol: Zara sa jhoom loon main (Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, 1995)
  • Mallika Sherawat: Bheege honth tere (Murder, 2004)
  • Katrina Kaif: Ooncha lamba kad (Welcome 2007, 2007)
  • Ameesha Patel: Ye lazy lamhe (Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, 2008)
  • Anushka Sharma: Chaska chaska laga hai chaska chaska (Badmaash Company, 2010)
  • Nupur Sharma: Line laga, mind laga (Hey Bro, 2015)

No dress code, no moves-code for this beach party

The last few instances are a far cry from the cinema of 50 years ago, especially from the dance moves point of view. Let’s take a case in point. Kishore Sahu was a very gifted director, and one of his films was Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960). In the film, the song Sheesha-e-dil itna na uchhaalo was filmed on Meena Kumari, Shammi and their friends at the beach. It seems Sahu gave the picnicking ladies the option to feel free to dress and dance as they like. So, while Meena Kumari and a couple of girls came in a sari, Shammi and a few ladies arrived wearing a swimming costume, others wore shalwar-kurtas, and others yet wore hot pants. You could even spot skirts, capris, and backless dresses. No question of anyone offering pelvic thrusts either. Nowadays if you are on a beach, get yourself into a swimming costume, forget the sari, and forget even emoting. The camera won’t train too much on your face anyway.

Which makes me laugh, and takes me back to where we started today because another laughter round is coming to your screens next month, in Miss Universe 2017. If wisdom in swimwear makes you laugh as well, do tune in to watch the Miss Universe event live, happening on 26th November, at Las Vegas, USA. But let’s hope no girl messes up about the mass shootings that happened in that city last week, on 1st October 2017. That was no laughing matter.


The above is a slightly longer version of the article that was published on page 13 in DNA Jaipur, on 8 October 2017 http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2017-10-08

Featured image on top: Raakhee

12 thoughts on “Wisdom in Swimwear

  1. Wah. What a lovely subject. A girl who literally made a splash with swimsuit on Indian scene was Nafisa Ali literally in National swimming pool. She also tried her hand at acting but in a propah wedding dress or fully covered. Great article Manek bhai …

  2. What a subject Sirjee! And how beautifully you have introduced it! I had no idea Priyanka who won the crown was judged on the basis of this faux pas, guess the judges are equally stupid!
    Swimsuits are great, and seeing our own actresses in them, Dimple in Sagar for instance, is a visual delight…yes, beauty and brains often do not go together but these days brainy women are going for “fixes” to get the missing good looks, cant say there is any surgery that can similarly ‘fix’ anyone’s intelligence!
    Recently there has been much talk of the “burkini” in France, where women want to be fully covered when they go for a swim, I believe its banned! Less is more!!

    1. Burkinis are in use these days, and they’re a good idea, but I think they only do half the job. They do not hide the curves 🙂 Thanks Lata, encouraged by your thoughts too!

    1. Thanks Shikha, one day when I have the guts, I’ll write about your father, the simple-looking but extraordinary, Anil Biswas! Extraordinary as a maestro, and the same in his early years, his run from British jails, his amazing contributions, humbling!

  3. Phir kahin Manek ka article chhapa …… classic kaho ise …….

    Confuscious and confusion are so close that in a joking manner, I too often say a confused guy as a Confuscious ka chela ….though that should never be close to truth ….. but all in a lighter vein.

    Super article as always ……

  4. What?????? Lalita Pawar and Nalini Jaywant in swim suits??? Lalita Pawar? La haul vila kuwat! Now I have to re-think Lalita Pawar! Oh my! Which movie was this in? Manek – very, very interesting essay this week. I’m glad you can laugh at beauty pageants. Part of me is repulsed that they exist in this century. The other part is quite okay that they exist, but appalled at how they’re conducted. A tinier part of me gets to the point at which you find yourself – finding the questions posed to these youngsters quite ridiculous.
    Once again, hats off to you. For coming up with another facet in our films that links so interestingly to the music that we all love and to our lives.

    1. Yes Monica, Himmat e Marda of 1935. The pictures are there on the net 🙂 So, do rethink Lalita Pawar 🙂 And also do rethink Rekha, whom we associate with oomph…if there’s a scene with her in swimwear, I’m unaware!

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