Bollywood's leading ladies head for a makeover...

By Subhash K Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, April 23 (IANS) Bollywood's leading ladies are heading for a makeover.

Bipasha Basu hasn't only shed oodles of weight, she's also ready to do away with her oomphy image. In Prakash Jha's "Apharan" Bipasha stars as a salwar kameez clad girl next door.

"There're so many girls doing 'Jism' now. It was time for me to do something for a change," she joked.

But it's true. Our sexiest heroines are avoiding skin shows. Sushmita Sen, whose va-va-voom star-turn in "Main Hoon Na" made her everyone's favourite femme fatale, has gone diametrically de-glam in Kalpana Lajmi's "Chingari".

"People will find it difficult to recognize Sushmita in my film. She's totally transformed. And she enjoyed playing the rustic prostitute in 'Chingari' as much as the sophisticated teacher in 'Main Hoon Na'. I've always believed glamour is a state of the mind. It has nothing to do with the brand of lipstick and perfume," Lajmi maintained.

"Raveena Tandon wore crumpled cotton saris in my 'Daman'. She still looked ravishing. Likewise Sush. She remains gloriously alluring even in a 200-rupee sari and the Awadhi dialect that I've made her speak in the film," she added.

So, are the glam dolls looking for a serious makeover?

Priyanka Chopra, who smouldered sensuously as the hotshot business executive in Abbas-Mustan's "Aitraaz", would soon be getting into a traditional nine-yard Bengali sari in a new adaptation of Bimal Mitra's "Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam" that Rituparno Ghosh will probably direct.

But the most startling makeover on the anvil is that of Lisa Ray, the dishy damsel in Deepa Mehta's "Hollywood/Bollywood". She's all set to be seen as a totally de-glamorised widow of Varanasi in Mehta's "Water".

The challenge of shedding the glamorous persona in order to play "real" characters has always fascinated screen legends.

Rekha and Hema Malini got seriously makeup-less in Jabbar Patel's "Musafir" and Gulzar's "Khushboo" respectively. Sharmila Tagore shed all her mannerisms to play a frumpy housewife in Basu Bhattacharya's "Aavishkar".

Mumtaz, the ultimate glam-doll, had no qualms about going totally de-glam in Vijay Anand's "Tere Mere Sapne". Even Zeenat Aman tucked her cleavage into a wide-angled ghagra choli to play a sweeper in O.P. Ralhan's "Pyaas", albeit not as successfully as the other actresses who got out of their baby-doll images for a spot of heavy-duty histrionic hijinks.

Why, even the empress of oomph, Helen, suddenly got out of her furs, sequins and body stockings in the 1970s to play a long-suffering second-wife to Vinod Khanna in Mahesh Bhatt's "Lahu Ke Do Rang".

Significantly, the sensuous voice of Asha Bhosle was replaced by the more conventionally mainstream melodist Lata Mangeshkar's soul-piercing tune "Zid na karo" for Helen.

The performance won Helen her first and only Filmfare award.

And then came the other queen of oomph, Bindu, whom Hrishikesh Mukherjee decided to de-glam in "Abhimaan" and "Arjun Pundit". Both got Bindu awards galore.

Most actresses see the challenge of de-glamorised acting as a passport to national and popular awards.

And rightly so. Didn't Kareena Kapoor get nominated for numerous awards in Govind Nihalani's "Dev", where her make-up man was sent away on holiday?

"All I did was rinse my face with water and I was ready to face the camera," laughed Kareena.

Shilpa Shetty, who made a career out of playing the glam-doll, suddenly shook awake. She stopped being a fake in "Phir Milenge".

But it was tough. She has confessed she felt vulnerable and unarmed playing the HIV positive woman. But having tasted blood, she's happy to shed her de-glamorised image for those awards.

But can performances be pitched at winning awards? And is de-glamorisation a sure way of getting there?

The fact that Rani Mukherjee's frumpy Bihari housewife's role in Mani Rathnam's walked away with all the awards over Kareena Kapoor's sophisticated city slicker's turn in "Yuva" is proof of which way the cookie crumbles.