Despite putting in her career-best performance in the box-office hit Hustlers, Jennifer Lopez was snubbed by The Academy this year. Some fans have alleged that Lopez was overlooked because her role is “too glamorous”. Not just in Hollywood, but closer home too, glamorous roles by leading ladies are not taken very seriously. In fact, when an actor goes for a de-glammed role, people applaud her for taking her craft seriously or displaying her skills. Does the lack of vanity make these women better actors? Or is it that make up and glamour occupy our gaze to such an extent that viewers fail to see beyond their appearance?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Jennifer Lopez didn’t score a nomination at The Academy Awards for her performance in Hustlers.
  • Fans are alleging that she was snubbed because the role was too glamorous.
  • Women actors often have to shed glamour to be taken seriously.
  • But is shedding glamour a real measure to assess their acting skills or just an act to up the “bold” factor?

Does lack of vanity make these women better actors?  Or is it that make up and glamour occupy our gaze to such an extent that viewers fail to see beyond their appearance?

The reactions to Deepika Padukone’s Chhapaak, that released last Friday raises similar questions. A lot of people have applauded Padukone, revered for her beauty, for opting to essay the role of an acid attack survival. Fans and critics have called her brave and bold, calling Chhapaak her best performance so far. But is it her acting or her lack of vanity in this project that has amused the audience more? Lopez is just at the other end of the spectrum, where her career-best performance perhaps failed to impress the jury at The Academy for being too glamorous.

Also Read: Chhapaak Leaves You Emotional, Thoughtful And More Human

We have so many talented women actors who have only been applauded for their acting skills, when they take up “serious” roles; the ones which require them to shun glamour that is part and parcel of a Hindi film heroine’s life. So, did Alia Bhatt develop special acting skills for Dear Zindagi (2016), which she then shed for Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017)? Did Anushka Sharma only discover her capacity as an actor in NH-10? Is Chameli Kareena Kapoor Khan’s only applaudable performance? Or could it be that lack of glamour has been made into a criterion for women, so that they are taken more seriously? So let us rephrase the question… Would you have judged Alia Bhatt’s performance in Raazi differently, had she been presented in a glamorous avatar?

Many may argue that the films mentioned here actually demand an actor to shed vanity, but that’s the whole point. Who made vanity a compulsion for our heroines, why must she doll up at all? This stereotyping of female leads as sexy, glamorous and fancy keeps the audience from focussing on their acting skills. The only exception that comes to my mind is that of Vidya Balan whose career-best performance is The Dirty Picture, a far cry from her less glamorous roles in Kahaani and Tumhari Sulu.

Why must our gaze at a performance differ as per vanity? Losing weight, gaining muscle mass, shedding make-up, going bald, using prosthetics, these are all brave moves that many actors make to be able to do justice to their parts. But it is their skills which actually champion these roles.

The men in our industry go through a somewhat similar ordeal, where a Hrithik Roshan must shed vanity and grow a shaggy beard to be taken seriously for his role in Super 30. But since the stereotypical association of glamour is stronger with women, it is they who must bear the burden of vanity more than their male counterparts.

The point here isn’t whether de-glam roles are better than glamorous roles, or whether cinema needs to tone down its vanity. The simple question at hand is, why must our gaze at a performance differ as per vanity? Losing weight, gaining muscle mass, shedding make-up, going bald, using prosthetics, these are all bold moves that many actors make to be able to do justice to their parts. But it is their skills which actually champion these roles. Remove all the make-up from the face of a bad actor, and she won’t suddenly become a good one. You need the calibre to be Silk in The Dirty Picture or  Veera in Highway. And that’s what Lopez brought to the table in Hustlers as Ramona.

Also Read: Why Are Regressive Dialogues Still A Thing In Bollywood Films?

If at all The Academy overlooked Lopez’s performance on the accounts that it is too glamorous, then it shows how we give more value to risks actors take than their skills. But then this is the same fraternity we are talking about that made Leonardo DiCaprio wait for his Oscar till he slept inside the carcass of a horse and ate raw bison liver in the name of acting, remember?

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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