Time to bite our lips?


Time to bite our lips?

India is one of the top five plastic surgery centres in the world, catering not just to medical tourists but also the local urban population. This statistic which was first put out in 2010 by The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) rose robustly last year when the appreciating dollar made our clinics even more affordable. Cosmetic surgery is no longer a celebrity fixation—it’s chosen by many, effusively indulged by books, therapists, the anti-ageing industry and its image fixers. Hundreds of Indian skin clinics now advertise face lifts, including kitty party Botox—an afternoon fix for a group of like-minded women. Shahin Nooreyezdan, cosmetic surgeon at Apollo Hospital in Delhi, says that Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma is hardly an exception. He finds more young girls opting for lip fillers even though it is only much later, with age, that the upper lip atrophies and becomes thinner.

Yet, as the recent froth and fury of reactions to Sharma’s alleged lip fix and her response, in a series of tweets refuting surgery suggests, we may indulge in cosmetic interventions but are far from accepting it as a society.

The result is enormous, two-sided pressure on our stars especially female actors. One is the familiar beauty trap—to look young, thin and pretty, with full boobs, pouty lips, slender noses, lustrous hair, shapely legs and curvy butts regardless of the phases of life. The many debates on Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s mommy fat and Vidya Balan’s once-upon-a-time body bulges are a case in point. Now there are whispers about Kareena Kapoor’s weight gain barely a few years after she was publicly chided for being size zero. At times like these, we parrot global prejudices. “It’s not about acting. They don’t care if you can act or not,” actor Emma Thompson rightly told The Telegraph last year. “It seems young actresses are under pressure to look a particular way… They have to be this specific model size, and if they get on to the red carpet, they’re all having to walk like models and dress like models. I think the pressure is terrible,” she added.

Here, the logic behind such “pressure” is fuzzy. Just last week, news magazine Outlook ran a snippet on Shilpa Shetty’s yummy mummydom, adding an “ugh” for her “skeleton legs”. So even Shetty’s figure, called the gold standard of glamourous perfection in Bollywood, isn’t good enough.

On the other hand when an actor crumbles under the pressure and resorts to cosmetic intervention, or as Sharma confessed—“temporary lip-enhancing tools and make-up”—there is a reverse backlash. Sharma, who insiders allege was always insecure about her looks, deserves full marks for her upbeat tone in what could have been a very bitter response. But her need to clarify that she “doesn’t believe in plastic surgery” highlights the dilemma. I asked Nooreyezdan, what Sharma’s “temporary lip-enhancement tools” meant and he explained them as injectible fillers like Juvederm and Restylane. “They last for 10-12 months and can go wrong if extreme precision is not observed while filling the lips. At the same time, they are completely reversible. Another medicine can dissolve them instantly,” he says.

As far as the actor’s “make-up techniques” are concerned, 2014 is set to be the year of pucker products. “Lip really is the new nail,” said Laura Weinstein of Sally Hansen Marketing last month to Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) after global market research company NPD Group Inc released a study that millennial women are purchasing more pout-perfecting products all over the world.

Allegedly, even Priyanka Chopra has had her lips and nose fixed; Shetty has had a nose job; Salman Khan a hair transplant, Kangna Ranaut breast-enhancement surgery, and Preity Zinta Botox. So are we okay with successful interventions but only come down hard on those who have had an aesthetic misfortune like Sharma? Or, is our judgement linked to medical safety, insecurity despite youth and success and lopsided vanity?

It may be time to bite our lips and think why we love or hate our stars. And whether the reasons should be the same for Sharma and Rai Bachchan. Else we will continue to contribute to the deceit in our celebrity culture, forcing stars to constantly advocate themselves as morally, politically, sexually, socially and medically right.