About the first thing that you probably think is going to be there in this piece is the enormous reduction in consumption of textiles on account of the Indian heroine. You are doomed to disappointment, however, though it is rather difficult to entirely avoid that issue while on the subject of the changing face of the Indian heroine. This piece, however, shall probably concentrate on how most things have come full circle when it comes to the Indian heroine.
There was a time when the heroine could be distinguished from her co-dancers – in one of the inevitable group dance sequences – by the color of her clothing. Everyone in the scene would be decorously clad in yards and yards of saris. Later, the other dancers in the scene used to be more (and more) scantily dressed while the heroine used to be covered by the most yardage (Believe me all those stupid allegations of pandering to the baser tastes were grossly untrue. This was done merely to distinguish them from the heroine!). In a further development, it was found better to distinguish the heroine from the others by having her be the least over-dressed of the lot. Now, however, things have come full circle and, with everyone equally scantily dressed, you again have to identify the heroine only by the color of her dress. In the more up-market versions, you can also identify her by the color of her skin since her co-dancers are normally whites.
In the early days, when the heroine has reason to grieve – either a lost parent or a lost love – all she had to do was weep. Things were not all that easy a shade later, when the heroine had adopted what was called ‘modern dress’. The moment a reason for grief presented itself she had to go out and shop first for the entire ensemble that is required to be worn with a sari – things that had never before had reason to be present in her wardrobe. After all, one has to be dressed appropriately for grieving and whoever had then heard of grieving in anything but a sari? Things have now come full circle again, since it is considered quite possible to be appropriately sorrowful even when dressed in a bikini and, thus, no change in wardrobe is considered essential. Of course the more up-market mode of grief is not to weep copiously but to bury your sorrows in a glass of vodka. That only entails wearing a lost look on your face – a feat that comes easy to the modern heroine, considering the sort of roles she is being offered, since she has that lost look perpetually on her face wondering what she is really doing in the movie anyway.
There are areas, however, where things have changed drastically. There was a time when the heroine was modeled more on the fertility goddess. One cannot go so far as to say that they were positively encouraged to put on poundage around the abdomen but an appearance of pregnancy did not necessarily spell curtains to a career as a heroine nor was it a curtain-raiser for a new career as mother. Now, apparently, the heroine is patterned on the ramp model – not least because scanty dress and excess poundage look really unsightly – and is more arm candy than one who ‘teaches a man what caring and sharing is all about’.
The biggest change, however, has come about in the touching part. The yester-year heroine coldly folded her hands in a Namaste and gave a ‘You Jerk’ look to the man who was rogue enough to put out his hand for a handshake. Later still, a hand-shake was sort of all right but everything else was ‘shaadi ke baad’. Then, she would decorously retire behind a couple of kissing flowers. Now, if the man does not embrace her and “Mwah Mwah” in the vicinity of her ear in the first meeting he gets that cold “You Jerk” look.
Alas! Keeping up with change is nerve-wracking. I have seen too much change within my lifetime and it is very wearing on my nerves. So, the metamorphoses of the comedian, the villain, the baby and the pet dog shall have to wait a long time before they get to be showcased here.