More to Indian cinema than purple lips

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More to Indian cinema than purple lips

It's difficult to stay up there, and the icy air's so thin that your lips eventually turn purple.

By Aditya Sinha

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Published: Wed 25 May 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 25 May 2016, 2:00 AM

Aishwarya Rai was recently seen on the red carpet at the Cannes film festival and her lips were the colour purple - a shade met with derision in India, a land that is a tad conservative and goes green with envy when it comes to matters of fashion. Her presence obviously had little to do with any film being exhibited there: when was the last time you went to a movie because it had been raved about at Cannes? The only name I associate with Cannes is Lars von Trier, and the only film that I remember getting a lot of "lip-service" was the not-very-coy French film Blue is the Warmest Colour. Now that's a film I'd like to re-done in Hindi with Kangana Ranaut and Radhika Apte in the lead roles. What a lip-smacking prospect.
Read: Aishwarya Rai flaunts 'PURPLE' lips at Cannes
It turned out that Aishwarya was there for her latest film Sarbjit, based on the real-life story of an alleged spy Sarabjit Singh, who died in a Pakistani jail in May 2013. The film got terrible reviews and Aishwarya is said to be screechier-than-usual. It was screened out of competition which is not unusual: even big Hollywood stars are lured to Cannes by out-of-competition screenings of their latest releases to add glamour to an otherwise esoteric gathering of auteurs of world cinema. If the organisers were serious about showcasing India's cinematic excellence then they would have brought to Cannes the lead actors of the current Marathi release Sairat, an inter-caste love story that is sweeping pan-Indian audiences off their feet (even activist Aamir Khan has urged his fans to go and watch).
But while it would have been heartening to see first-timers like Rinku Rajguru and Akash Thosar starry-eyed at Cannes, it is still nice to see the gorgeous Aishwarya - even with her mummy-tummy - stop and strike a pose as only she can. The lipstick, though: what is it with Indian women and their lips?
Anoushka Sharma for instance underwent a procedure with her lips that might have gone awry and she was game enough to admit so publicly, though it left millions of us mystified as to why such an attractive and spunky woman had to go under the scalpel in the first place. Perhaps it had something to do with Priyanka Chopra who, as she rapidly approaches middle-age, has finally hit the jackpot in the West, what with her TV show Quantico - which incidentally is one of the US network ABC's big face-savers from last season - and the coming Baywatch film with "The Rock".
Priyanka, who is delightfully pudgy in a way that only Third World men can fully appreciate, has lips that appear collagen-enhanced for heavy thickness and bulge - or to put it as a friend once did, she has the "blue-film" lips. No wonder that ten years ago, all the young studs in my office wanted to be intimate with her. Now, not only is age catching up with her but so are other actors: Deepika Padukone, currently the biggest Bollywood female star (and one with a stiff upper lip) will surely leave Priyanka biting her lips in the dust when Vin Diesel's next installment of the XXX action film series hits screens in 2017. She's at the top of her game and in the prime of her life, but has done nothing to her lips - which makes you wonder whether enhancing your lips is a strategem adopted by aging actors (in the way that aging male stars have to pump up their bodies).
Or maybe some women just want to look like 1980s' "Thunder Thighs" Sridevi (maroon lipstick), whose puffy lower lip was in an eternal pout; 1970s' oomph-girl Mumtaz (pink lipstick), whose fleshy lips were accentuated by a pug nose into a "duck-face" decades before cell-phones and selfies; or the ideal Indian beauty of all time, Madhubala (crimson lipstick), whose tumescent lips were divine perfection.
Perhaps Aishwarya was just trying to put a brave face on the fact that she has been named in the latest global investigation into illegally-stashed money, the Panama Papers. It is difficult to believe that a former Miss World would be a witting party to money-laundering, in the same way as the associates and family members of the Presidents of China, Russia and Syria, or those of the Prime Ministers of Britain, Pakistan and Iceland (among many, many others). More likely would have been the vampiric Indian politicians with blood trickling from their lips. But none were named. The truth is probably prosaic: that Indian politicians are pastmasters at hiding their illegal wealth, operating at a stratosphere of sophistication far above other world leaders.
Thus Aishwarya's purple lips might have one last explanation: they're purple with rage, what with younger actresses in the spotlight, richer people escaping with their black money, and even Sonam Kapoor trumping her as the L'Oreal girl at Cannes (though Sonam's gown had a funny tail). This is the problem with reaching the pinnacle: it's difficult to stay up there, and the icy air's so thin that your lips eventually turn purple.
The writer is a journalist and author who has contributed to the anthology House Spirit: Drinking in India

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