Do Bollywood's 'hot babes' have it tough?

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, (IANS) Meghna Naidu, who shot to fame with her item numbers, had a brush with murky male conduct last week when some men subjected her to lewd comments and gestures.

"Just because I've done a certain kind of role it doesn't mean I am open to such behaviour," said Meghna speaking of the incident that had taken place while she was standing with her boyfriend at the foyer of a Mumbai hotel.

"I too come from a decent family, have god fearing parents and feel offended by lewd behaviour just like any other normal girl."

Meghna admits men tend to look at girls with 'sexy' images in a particular way and behave accordingly with them. This, says the actress, is unfair.

She refuses to blame her image for the incident.

Some months ago Bipasha Basu had been physically abused in a posh upmarket restaurant by a drunken man. It was the swift intervention of her boyfriend that prevented the situation from snowballing into a fight.

I don't think Bipasha got it right when she opined: "This could've happened to any actress. Such predatory male attention has nothing to do with my image or celebrity status. Thousands of working girls are vulnerable to eve teasing each day. They are not all well known faces."

Bipasha's line of argument notwithstanding, the fact remains that actresses with 'hot' images are more prone to predatory attention than their counterparts with relatively sedate images.

It's no coincidence that post-"Murder" Mallika Sherawat caused stampedes wherever she went.

After the film, in which she showed a lot of flesh, the audience thought Mallika was a 'chalu cheez', never mind if she protested that she lived like a nun. Fans would have none of it.

I remember her concern for her well-being after "Murder" was declared a blockbuster.

"It's very tough for a single girl specially if she has a sexy image," Mallika sighed. I suggested she get a male member of her family to stay with her. She got her brother over from her home town Rohtas (that's where she claimed to be from).

Now I hear Mallika has appointed two bouncers to protect her. God bless her.

Actresses have always been prone to sexual attacks. It's to do with the way they conduct themselves.

Nobody would dare to mess around with Hema Malini. But her daughter Esha Deol, who has acquired a bold image after "Dhoom", is susceptible to bouts of bawdy behaviour in public.

"You learn to deal with it, I guess. And the best way to deal with unwanted attention is to ignore it," says Raveena Tandon, who has sailed through more than a decade of high-flying success as a diva and is today blissfully ensconced in matrimony and motherhood.

"It all depends on your own conduct. No one would dare look lewdly at actresses of the past. Meena Kumarji or Hemaji were like goddesses. Today you see the girls dancing half-naked in your homes (on TV). What impression can the average moviegoer take away, except that today's heroines are easy prey," says the legendary Asha Parekh.

Have the music-video actresses brought in a new perception of the audience-star relationship?

Meghna Naidu says she feels concerned about the average girl who gets manhandled. And has no access to the media.

But what have the Mallika Sherawats, Meghna Naidus, Rakhi Sawants and Payal Rohatgis of show-world (and boy do they show!) done to ensure that the image of women as sex objects isn't misused on screen?