Ranveer Singh has been on top of Goggle trends since yesterday. Not for his films or his sartorial choices, but for a nude magazine cover photoshoot that has made everyone sit up and take notice. The actor’s viral photo series features him nude with well-groomed hair, sitting on a carpet and nonchalantly posing for the camera. The photoshoot is a tribute to ’70s pop icon Burt Reynolds who also went nude in the 1972 shoot for Cosmopolitan magazine. While Ranveer’s fans and colleagues are hyped about his confidence, others have resorted to hilarious memes – plastering the actor’s poses on classic paintings and using his expressions for relatable situations.
In his interview with the magazine, where he was dubbed as ‘the last Bollywood superstar’, Singh spoke about baring it all and silently echoing the theme of his photoshoot, “It’s so easy for me to be physically naked, but in some of my performances I’ve been d**n f**king naked. You can see my f**king soul. How naked is that? That’s being actually naked. I can be naked in front of a thousand people, I don’t give a sh*t. It’s just that they get uncomfortable.”
Singh, who has famously never held back in his performances and life otherwise, sheds a different lens on his essence through being vulnerable. He speaks of believing in Kaliyuga, holding a “very dystopic view, a very cynical understanding of the world” and even confidently introduces himself as ‘Deepika Padukone’s husband’ during his public appearances.
Nudes have long been a fascination and inspiration for artists. While contemporary artists are reclaiming the nude to expand and challenge our ideas of beauty and vulnerability, most nudes still depict the female form. Hence, to witness Singh’s tone for the interview was a refreshing welcome from the usual overbearing toxic masculinity we are used to.
Female celebs appreciate Ranveer Singh
However, the most striking feature was several female celebs coming together to react positively to his shoot. From Priyanka Chopra, Zoya Akhtar, Masaba Gupta, Swara Bhaskar, and Richa Chadha to Dia Mirza were in high praises and support for Singh. Designer-actor Gupta declared it the ‘best cover shot this country has seen’ and praised the actor for his risk-taking abilities. Sure, I agree it was bold and a brave shoot, but I wonder if it would have been a similar case for a female celeb?
Mimi Chakraborty, a Bengali celebrity and member of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), voiced her opinion on the same and wondered aloud if the response to the images would be any different. “Would you have burned her house down, taken up morchas, given her a death threat and slut shamed her?” Chakraborty wrote calling for an extension of vision and change in our perspectives.
Female gaze in the realm of Indian art
In India, nude figures are found in gendered formations of both male and female in the guises of divinities, heroes, warriors, or mythological beings. Several nude paintings and sculptures of female form today embody unabashed and unapologetic self-awareness of sexuality and power, claiming ownership of herself and her body. A clear embodiment of feminine energy. Hence, while art panders to the male gaze, it is an appreciative female lens that upholds its significance. As artist Anjolie Ela Menon puts it, “That is the wellspring of creativity from which our woman’s vision is defined and stands apart from the male gaze.”
Imagine what a nation that embraces diversity in public art could do only if it chose to create inclusivity and celebrate achievements equally. And to do so we must ‘step outside’ of the social and cultural processes that partly shape our identities, values and perceptions.
Hence, while we battle objectification every day, it is important to engage the public gaze, and not just through one gender. We have to distinguish and view this from the lens of aesthetics and feminism, and not allow either to cloud our lens completely.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested Reading: Is Nudity Gender-Biased? Where is The Outrage?