TALKING FILMS

Dare to bare like Salman Khan

Salman Khan has turned 50, and he has spent a little over half of his life and career sharing the secrets of his torso with his numerous fans.

There are actors, stars and superstars, and then there are supernovas who emote through their naked torsos. Several Hindi movie actors have exposed their upper-body musculature for the pleasure of their fans, including Dara Singh, Dharmendra and Sanjay Dutt. But nobody quite does the open chest routine like Salman Khan, as a potted tour of his movies reveals.

Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) The 24-year-old Khan, in only his second screen appearance and already a star, glowers and flexes muscle for his lady love (Bhagyashree). The movie poster, in which his shirtless self (with hair) towers over his demure lover, set up a he-man image that persists till date. An enduring sequence from that movie, which has more visual innuendo than is usually permissible in a Rajshri Productions title: Khan clad in blue jeans and nothing else doing push-ups as Bhagyashree tests his resolve.

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Baaghi (1990) Khan plays Saajan, the obedient son of an Army colonel, whose love transforms him into a man of action and a rebel with a cause (the object of his desire is a victim of trafficking). The opening frame sets up Khan as the angry young man of the 1990s: he runs towards the camera yelling at the top of his voice, lunging his sword into an unseen enemy. But it starts badly for Saajan. He is ragged at college and forced to run through the campus in a bikini. Deepak Shivdasasni’s movie finds a more conventional way to get Khan to show off the positive effects of exercise: Saajan pumps iron in a gym and spends the rest of the movie in a variety of singlets.

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Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! (1994) The animal passion that Khan was able to evoke in Sooraj Barjatya’s Maine Pyar Kiya had been tamed by the time Barjatya re-united with the actor for Hum Aapke Hain Koun…! A family-friendly reboot of Rajshri Productions’ Nadiya Ke Paar (1982) that is dipped in the goodness of clarified butter and sugar syrup, HAHK allows a flash of Khan’s newly shaven chest in a bath-tub in the song Chocolate Lime Juice Icecream. He later emerges from a swimming pool in lycra briefs in a fantasy song. “Salman started shaping his body from his struggling days,” Jasim Khan writes in his biography Being Salman (Penguin Random House India). “He was a regular member of the gym at Hotel Sea Rock. This was the reason Salman could take off his shirt in his very first movie. Madhuri Dixit reportedly asked him during the shooting of Hum Aapke Hain Koun . . . ! if he waxes his chest. ‘I am a man, I shave it,’ answered an unfazed Salman. His clean-shaven body was displayed for the first time in that movie, and has been Salman’s trademark ever since.”

Karan Arjun (1995) Rakesh Roshan’s reincarnation vendetta drama features Khan in one of his best performances. Appearing alongside Shah Rukh Khan as brothers in a previous life who are reunited in the present one, Salman Khan has every reason to take off his shirt: he plays a street fighter. Khan was still a few years away from resembling an action figurine, and his torso remained in proportion to the rest of his body.

Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya (1998) Behold the new Salman Khan at the end of a most successful decade: his chest expanded in all directions, glistening in the sun, and the blue jeans soldered to those stocky legs.

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Tere Naam (2003) A bona fide male weepie aimed at young men the world over who believe that love equals madness and death. Satish Kaushik’s Tere Naam is a remake of Sethu, Bala’s sleeper hit in Tamil that made a star out of its lead actor, Vikram. Khan plays Radhe, a rowdy with his hair worn in bangs on either side of his face who loses his mind to love. Keen watchers of the career graph of Khan’s bare chest will remember the scene in which he balances a feather between his breasts after fantasising about Nirjara. Anurag Kashyap paid a witty homage to Radhe in Gangs of Wasseypur 2 through the character of Definite, who wears his hair in a similar style and exposes his upper body in tribute, moobs and all.

Wanted (2008) The Yojimbo-inspired actioner signalled Khan’s comeback after a dry spell as well as laid the groundwork for Dabangg. Khan plays an undercover cop who finishes off rival gangs, which means there is plenty of verbal and physical action and at least one inspired shirt-free moment. As the villain hurls a fireball at our khaki-clad policeman, he swats off the flame and takes off the ruined garment. Game on.

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Dabangg (2010) Filmmakers have found innovative ways to get Khan to divest himself of his upper body clothing since Wanted. A fierce spray of water does the trick in Bodyguard (2011). In Dabangg, Abhinav Singh Kashyap’s meta-movie about the Salman Khan persona, a mighty wind blows as Khan’s Chulbul Pandey faces his nemesis. Chedi Singh (Sonu Sood) has caused the death of Chulbul’s mother, but why is he bare-chested when the uncrowned king of the unclothed torso contest isn’t? The answer arrives in a series of frenetic zoom-ins set to pounding music. The force of the flashback shreds Chulbul’s shirt just like in the closing minutes of Kung Fu Hustle, and he stands there before the world, not a hair on the chest. Just the way we always like to remember our birthday boy.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.