From Dara Singh to six-pack SRK, here’s a look at the dare-bare male torso on the silver screen
Hrithik Roshan may well be the contemporary Greek God, but Dara Singh holds the distinction of playing the maximum Greek characters in Hindi cinema from the mythical Samson and Hercules to the historical Alexander (Sikandar-e-Azam, 1965). Singh’s ascendance and acceptance creating a fan following of his own in numerous solo leads happened at a time when the ideal hero material was defined by sensitive and slimmer romantics like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Bharat Bhushan or the corpulent but agile Kapoors - Raj and Shammi. Needless to add, while the latter never showed skin, Singh didn’t mind reducing to his briefs in two Tarzan films and as the original Bahubali - the most favoured on screen Hanuman in the myriad takes on Ramayan - a role he successfully repeated well past his prime in Ramanand Sagar’s popular 1980s’ TV series on the epic.
Showstoppers: Veer Bhimsen, Hercules, Tarzan and King Kong, Sikandar-e-Azam, Boxer
From one Punjab da puttar to another; if Singh’s brawn bravado was limited to B-grade flicks, Dharmendra brought it into the mainstream hero’s repertoire with his shirtless swagger in Phool Aur Patthar (1966). The film’s famous scene of a drunken shirtless Dharmendra hovering over a sleep feigning Meena Kumari in restrained anticipation ranks amongst the all time top sexually charged scenes in Hindi cinema. As regards his brawn impact, it’s best summed by dream girl Hema Malini’s oft quoted first reaction on seeing Dharmendra, “I had never seen a more handsome man in my life before.” The son of the soil’s rugged brawn appeal lay in his naturally sculpted body, not any artificially customised gym trained six packs. Indeed, they don’t make it like him anymore.
Showstoppers: Haqeeqat, Phool Aur Patthar, Sholay, Dharam Veer, Razia Sultan
The seventies popularity chart at the top may have swung between the romantic Rajesh Khanna (who later developed a slight paunch) and the angry young man Amitabh Bachchan, but Vinod Khanna easily topped the torso chart when it came to having a fit body and flaunting it to the full. Remember the fight in the dust between Amar (Khanna) and Anthony (Bachchan) in Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977). For once the voyeur’s gaze strayed and stayed beyond Bachchan on the fast climbing challenger to the action hero mantle. While the lanky Bachchan rarely shed cloths in front of the camera apart from those rare bare-chested shots in bed with Parveen Babi in Deewar or Rekha in Silsila, Khanna continued his bare show well past his prime in that infamous soaked shower lip lock with a shivering nubile Madhuri Dixit in his comeback hit Dayavan (1988).
Showstoppers: Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Amar Akbar Anthony, Rajput, Kshatriya, Parampara
Long before the Bollywood baba-wagon had begun hitting the gym with a vengeance as a launch essential and when other star sons were still lanky debutants (Kumar Gaurav, Sanjay Dutt) he was launched with a well proportioned physique, riding on sheer brawn bravado in Betaab (1983), thus making him a ‘fit’ heir to Dharmendra’s action hero mantle. As the vest became his trademark attire through an action filled eighties and nineties, the audience not only cheered but sincerely believed when he talked about the breaking impact of his ‘dhai kilo ka haath’ in Damini. Undoubtedly one of Bollywood’s best biceps till date!
Showstoppers: Kshatriya, Ghayal, Narasimha, Ghatak, Gaddar Ek Prem Katha
Sanjay Dutt-Jackie Shroff
One of the first hunk pairs from the muscled nineties, they started lean but beefed up their act as per the need of their times, well past their youth to extend their box office run as leading action heroes. Little wonder, their best brawn moment onscreen happened nearly a decade after their hit launches, when pitted opposite each other in a hand to hand combat in full physical glory in Khal Nayak (1993) long before the mock WWF fights had become a raze on TV.
Sanjay’s showstoppers: Sadak, Yalgaar, Khal Nayak, Daud, Vaastav
Jackie’s showstoppers: Gardish, Rangeela, Aar Ya Paar, Mission Kashmir, Agni Varsha
Akshay Kumar-Suniel Shetty
While Shetty’s lone USP for long remained his Schwarzenegger like well endowed physique, long before Kumar made his mark also as a comic-cum-drama actor of substance, his martial arts background saw him through the successful ‘Khiladi’ series as a lean but toned fighter actor. Together (Mohra, 1994), or alone, they not only wore their machismo on their bare torsos but also flaunted it at every available opportunity be it in the soaking in the rain scenes with their heroines or tearing off the shirt at the hint of a challenge to fight. But while Shetty preferred to use his biceps to contain a villain’s minions, Kumar used it no less prolifically to boost his sex appeal be it in the mandatory rain song with co-actresses like Raveena Tandon (Tip tip barsa pani) or romping under the shower to ‘no control’ with Rekha in Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996).
Akshay’s showstoppers: Mr Bond, Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi, International Khiladi, Garam Masala, Heyy Baby
Suneil’s showstoppers: Balwaan, Gopi Kishen, Rakshak, Krishna, Rudraksh
He perhaps hinted at his penchant for dropping cloths in those tight vest shots with a fully clad Bhagyashree tugging at his leg in the posters of Rajshri’s family film Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). The allusion to titillate was always there, it became a habit after the hit song-in-the-sarong outing with O o jane jaana (Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, 1998). Ever since, there’s been no turning back for this Khan with the original six-pack, who has often made it to many globally voted best body lists. An inspiration for Gen X body worshippers he’s been unofficially sourced to the shaping of quite a few contemporary six-packs from Uday Chopra to Hrithik Roshan.
Showstoppers: Suryavanshi, Karan Arjun, Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, No Entry, Partner
The Greek God-esque outline was evident as he swayed to Farah Khan’s inviting choreography in a figure revealing outfit in the song Ek pal ka jeena in his lead debut Kaho Naa Pyar Hai (2000) unleashing a female frenzy equaled only by the Rajesh Khanna wave. Making his mark in romantic characters, Roshan’s success as the ‘fit’ lover boy indirectly compelled the reigning, but aging Khans to beef up their physical act to if not match, at least not lag behind. The brawn moment however came six years later with Dhoom 2 (2006), where he bared his chiseled six-pack pandering to every audience’s fancy simultaneously emerging as the nation’s first superstar gay icon.
Showstoppers: Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai, Yaadein, Lakshya, Krrish, Dhoom 2
His model background not only ensured that he entered the film industry with a body to lust for, but also had no qualms flaunting it to the bare minimum. No wonder, with baring the torso becoming a given for Hindi film heroes of late, he’s rumoured to have taken the plunge at heralding a new high (or low, literally) in onscreen male nudity by becoming the first leading Hindi film hero to bare his butt in Anurag Kashyap’s No Smoking (2007)… if only the Censor Board was as accommodating!
Showstoppers: Jism, Dhoom, Zinda, Salaam-e-Ishq, No Smoking