The first nudist colony in the world was reportedly located in Thane in 1891. In the Fellowship of the Naked Trust, clothing was not allowed, although you were allowed to wear your glasses and dentures. I think, after clearly seeing all the dangling parts, he expected you to bite your tongue if it’s not pleasing to the eye.
Walking these bare steps, our latest nudist has inspired an entire nation to scrutinize his muscular frame over his glasses.
Nude pictures of Ranveer Singh have been the subject of FIRs and televised debates. It has been turned into a meme with the caption ‘This is what happens after buying a flat in Mumbai’. There’s also a musical parody floating around with stellar lyrics, ‘We Can See Her Butts.’
His bottom has infiltrated zeitgeist to such an extent that when I was signing the bank papers, and the officer repeatedly said, ‘Madam, please sign backwards as well.’ I was tempted to say, ‘Yours or Ranveer Singh’s?’ Before better understanding.
While parodies and memes are justified, outrage and police complaints are surprising reactions to the rather scandalous series of au naturel portraits. Ironically, a few months earlier, a Man Ray print tripled the record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction for $12.4 million. It featured a woman nude, who also put her posterior on display.
The role of gender in this equation cannot be ignored.
If a man crossing the road sees a naked woman, he stops immediately. A woman will close her eyes and quicken her steps upon seeing a handsome man in the buff. Conditioning Sucking Biology in the Gonads. A naked woman is an object of desire. A naked man indicates danger. Queen Victoria seems to have agreed with this view. After a visit to a museum, she ordered a fig leaf strategically placed on a replica of Michelangelo’s David, the most famous nude in history. No cover-up was demanded for Venus de Milo and Aphrodite of Knidos. Like their living, breathing counterparts in all forms of art, all they had to do was grin and bear it over and over again. Especially cinema. A study by the Geena Davis Institute found that female movie leads were four times more likely to be shown nude than their male counterparts.
A naked woman is a desirable object. On the other hand, a naked person should not be seen or heard.
My mother-in-law might have aligned with this latter sentiment. A few years back, Pummi Bua, who still can’t tell the difference between an audio and a video call, opened the bathroom door and handed over the phone to her 72-year-old husband while he was about to get a towel.
‘Mohan ji take this, Didi is calling from Bombay to wish you a happy birthday!’ At which point my mother-in-law immediately hung up the phone as she had Mohan ji looking resplendent in her wrinkled but neat birthday outfit.
In her study on reactions to nudes, James Madison University’s Beth A. One found that an image of a naked woman made a heterosexual man feel more masculine. Women look at the images and consider it aspirational. On the other hand, women who see pictures of naked men feel nervous and uncomfortable. For heterosexual men, seeing naked men made them worry about their perceived heterosexuality.
When I ask my friends about Ranveer’s pictures, they follow the same pattern. Embarrassing laughs and eye aversion ensue from my girlfriends, and their answers fall roughly within the framework of, ‘It’s not like I was staring or found it hot or anything. But there is nothing wrong in it.
The straight man, instead of answering how he felt looking at the pictures, started giving me lessons on fitness. One adds, ‘Hey, he should do more leg days.’
Ranveer’s pictures enlarge on my screen and when my son walks in, he murmurs that this is purely for research purposes, I see nothing but a man without clothes. Unlike meeting him in person, where he usually seems like a basketball full of kinetic energy, bouncing off generous compliments and kisses on blush cheeks, in these photos he wasn’t projecting any erections. Not even sexiness, with a subtle and perhaps fake stuffed hint of good endowment.
However, as a performance, I would consider it one of his greatest. Instead of putting on layers, he discarded them all.
In ‘Ways of Seeing’, John Berger says, ‘To appear means to turn the surface of your skin, the hair of your body, into a disguise, which in that case can never be discarded. The naked is condemned to never be naked. Nudity is a form of dress.’
I think Singh’s lawyer can use this in his argument, ‘Milord, I object. He was wearing clothes, you cannot see beyond his nakedness.’
Vidya Balan, who like most actresses has been the victim of both an obscenity case and objectification, summed it up best. Asked about her reaction to Singh’s pictures, she quipped, “What is the problem?” Let us also feast our eyes!’
I can assure the morally offended that while we are not advocating for The Naked Trust to start their own fellowship, the vast majority of women and the queer community are not deterred by these photographs. In fact, we only have one complaint. Instead of over-exposed, the photos appear to be under-exposed. Even with glasses, magnifying lenses and zoom tools, we are unable to see any anatomical detail, just a pool of shadow between two thin fleshy legs.
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