TALKING FILMS

‘Padmavati’ proves that Bollywood’s kohl mine never runs out

The darkened eyes of Ranveer Singh’s character Alauddin Khilji in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's movie signal sex appeal and danger.

Padmavati actor Ranveer Singh’s resemblance to Drogo from the Game of Thrones series has not gone unnoticed. Singh’s Alauddin Khilji and Drogo from the HBO series have many similarities – the exposed chest sculpted to perfection in the early prototypes of the neighbourhood gym; the rough garments that suggest a lifetime spent far away from refinement; the untamed ruggedness that both repels as well as reels in.

But most of all, the eyes have it. Khal and Khilji both have blazing orbs accentuated with black eyeliner. No woman misses the message here, especially when it comes to Khilji. He might be a marauding invader or an invading marauder, but he is also seductively dangerous and dangerously seductive.

Singh plays a heavily fictionalised version of the fourteenth-century Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khilji in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s historical, which isn’t based on factual accounts but on a fanciful reading of the past. Padmavat, the epic poem from which Bhansali seeks inspiration, was written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi over 200 years after Khilji’s reign. The poem suggests that there once lived a queen named Padmini, for whom Khili lusted so intensely that he rode into her kingdom Chittor with his army to conquer her. Rather than give in to Khilji, the legend goes, Padmini and the other women in Chittor leaped into a fire. Lives were lost, but Raput honour was saved.

Play
Padmavati (2017).

Men with kohl in their eyes in real life or on the screen are by no means unusual, but they send out a few unmistakable signals. They are in the same category as men with long hair and pierced ear lobes. Such men are dandies in touch with their feminine side. They are from minority or marginal communities that have not been touched by civilising influences and do not follow common conventions on social dressing and comportment. They are not to be trusted easily.

Kohl-lined eyes are, of course, a sign of great beauty in women, and have inspired movie titles and numerous songs. Lyricists who deconstruct a woman’s beauty into her desirable components – hair, hips, the walk, the demeanour – never fail to mention the facial feature that has benefitted from an eyeliner’s brush strokes. In the song Qayamat Ke Kajal from Kismat (1968), kohl-lined eyes are compared to a cataclysmic event. In Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen from Baazigar (1993), the darkened eyelids, when combined with fair cheeks, a sharp gaze and loose hair, have the potential to ruin a man’s well-being.

Gulzar put it beautifully in the song Kajra Re from Bunty Aur Babli (2005), in which Aishwarya Rai’s hazel eyes are enhanced by make-up. The ocular theme that dominates the song results in the simple and insistent chorus, “Your kohl-laden eyes, your dark, very dark eyes.”

Play
Kajra Re, Bunty aur Babli (2005).

The kind of men who line their eyes in the movies include frontier types who lead rough lives in dusty places (Amitabh Bachchan’s Afghan tribesman in Khuda Gawah, 1992) or gypsy-like folk who exist on the edge of gentility and morality (Ranveer Singh as a Kutchi Romeo in Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ramleela, 2013). But most often, kohl-eyed men are criminals, gangsters or terrorists. Kohl here is meant to supply an extra layer of menace, in case the viewer has missed the point.

Amrish Puri’s already bulbuous eyes have often been lined with the black liquid in numerous films, and not only in Indian cinema. In Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Puri plays Mola Ram, a monstrous priest of the Thugee cult whose frightening appearance includes a tonsured pate, a necklace of bones, and kohl-lined eyes large enough to swallow a car or two.

Amrish Puri in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Amrish Puri in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).

In Agneepath (1990), Amitabh Bachchan’s lined eyelids convey his hoodlum character’s flamboyance. Pankaj Kapoor’s malevolent gaze in the gangster-themed Maqbool (2003) is bolstered by his eye make-up. Prakash Raj in Wanted (2009) is both a gangster and a terrorist, and the kohl-lined look seems to be written into the contract.

In Dongri Ka Raja (2016), Ronit Roy’s hoodlum Mansoor seems to have an eyeliner tucked into his salwar-kameez. Shah Rukh Khan reaches for his kohl stick to more effectively play a bootlegger in Raees (2017).

Shah Rukh Khan in Raees (2017).
Shah Rukh Khan in Raees (2017).

Eyeliner is also as prevalent as Kalashnikovs and bomb-making material in the underground terrorist camps infiltrated by Kamal Haasan’s undercover agent in Vishwaroopam (2013). In fact, along with beards that reach to the chest, eyeliner seems crucial to ensuring membership into a terrorist group.

There are exceptions, and not all of them work. Arshad Warsi carries off the kohl look in Ishqiya (2010) and Dedh Ishqiya (2014) far better than Aditya Roy Kapur in Daawat-e-Ishq. Warsi’s Babban is a lovable thief with a larger-than-life personality that begins in his eyes and carries over to his luxuriant moustache and his clothes. Roy Kapur, in contrast, gains little from highlighting his peepers in Daawat-e-Ishq. The kohl here signifies nothing other than the filmmakers going overboard in trying to give the character a distinctive look.

Jaideep Ahlawat in Vishwaroopam (2013).
Jaideep Ahlawat in Vishwaroopam (2013).

The trickery associated with the kohl-eyed look is effectively demonstrated in Rudaali (1993). The serially unlucky Shanichari (Dimple Kapadia) finds that her eyes have dried up. She is unable to cry, even after her husband dies and her misfortunes pile up. Professional mourner Bhikni (Raakhee) gives Shanichari a tip: she pulls out from the folds of her sari her eyeliner, which makes the eyes burn and lets the tears flow.

When it is Shanichari’s turn to become a mourner, she doesn’t need the stinging kohl. The weight of her burdens reaches her eyelids, and she weeps with abandon. Glycerine¸ rather than kohl, does the trick here.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.