Recently, when Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut and Mugdha Godse walked the ramp for designer Narendra Kumar Ahmed at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai, they had more than the film Fashion in common. All three wore their breasts on their sleeves. Priyanka's purple dress amply accentuated her cleavage. Kangana wore a short, rust number elaborately revealing the curves of her small breasts. Mugdha walked in a green noodle-strapped creation. Together, they threw the spotlight on the only assets with rising worth. Breasts. A hundred designs on display. A hundred different ways of bearing the chest. No longer choli ke peechhe, breasts are now styled like supporting actors in a new theatre season in the Indian public arena. To be sized up, dressed, wired, bronzed and displayed for the breast prize.
The It-Breast has arrived in India. Boobs are no longer an item number. Nor just fatty tissue to be squashed inside repressive Libertina bras, to be bashfully taken out and handed over to the committed boyfriend who must become husband once he's handled them. Now to be trendy, you must be brazen. In this 'showing-it-being-more important-than-having-it' age, women's breasts are having a ball. Even as some societies pursue the back-to-basics mantra—as many as 4,000 women in the US had their implants removed last year—Indian women are doing the opposite. That includes women in their 40s, when breasts need to be given constant lessons in upward mobility.
In the wet area of the gym I go to, I'm often amused at the way women indulge their boobs with creams and fragrance, marvelling at each as if it were a piece of precious jewellery. Precious they are, as any full cup would admit. God forbid if you have androgynous Fashion Tits. Functional only on the ramp, they must become a handful for a plus-sized lifestyle off it.
This is not a pushed-up observation. Look around. In the malls, at melas or magazine covers. Among fashion week groupies or socialite evenings. At the dandiya festival or the dandy pub. In colleges or After Hours. Breasts have emerged as the single must-have accessory. It's the No. 1 new fashion trend in India with an army of specialists working full-time to keep the cup flowing over. Designers, fashion stylists, Photoshop experts, lingerie companies, plastic surgeons, make-up artistes, cosmetic brands—they are collectively creating a storm in the C-cup. With the Indian bride no longer shy about showing off a gold-dusted cleavage at her wedding, it's safe to say that Naomi Wolf's 'Official Breast' is unofficially big in India.
The shape, size, placement, silhouette, look, colour, texture, everything has changed. Remember Raakhee's boobs heading north to kiss her short hair as the other woman in Doosra Aadmi? Or Vyjanthimala's as she simpered to Shammi Kapoor's Badan pe sitare lapete hue in Prince? Oddly-placed above the imaginary horizontal line you are supposed to draw across the middle of your chest to get a perfect nipple alignment, those '60s-70s breasts preferred chins to toes. That bumpy, conical fit beneath a satin kameez has given way to smooth, well-positioned balcony bras (the new name for underwired wonders!).
The bra industry is the biggest beneficiary. There is a bra for every need and every deed. Half-cup nudes for the 'there-but-not-there' mystery. Sensuous boob tubes to wear with strapless dresses. Crystal-studded ones with transparent straps and touchably sexy padding. Wild purple lace or animal print item. Those for T-shirts to soothe temperature-sensitive nipples. Some push up and separate. Others hold, volumise or minimise. Some for the catwoman; others for the batwoman. The wonder is not just of the bras. Numerous industries collaborate to keep abreast of the trend.
Between fashion's small breasts and beauty's enhancing creams, real tits are squeezed in a tug of war played out in the market. More than 20 types of boob cosmetics are available on beauty shelves. Bronzers, gold-dust powders, decolletage enhancers, glimmer shimmer moisturisers and breast masks. You can have a breast scrub and facial, after soaking them Cleopatra-style in milky water with rose petals at luxury spas. Or give them a run for their size in a gym. Liposuction may be the number one cosmetic surgery in India and only about a 1,000 silicone pairs are implanted every year, yet, as a Delhi-based plastic surgeon says, "There is definitely a rising prevalence of breast enhancement surgeries as more and more women seem to want them."
Now, a good pair of boobs is more than a cosmetic achievement. They became surnames for Raakhee Sawant, Koena Mitra and Mallika Sherawat, to name a few. If you have them taut and toned like Malaika Arora, you can chhaiya chhaiya your recession blues away. If they are luscious and perky like Bipasha Basu's, every beedi will taste like a cigar. If you have them primed and pumped like Shilpa Shetty's, you can even get a half-career. Madhuri Dixit's dhak-dhak size may be an old story. Yet Aishwarya Rai's giggling acceptance of cleavage-happy Armani numbers at Cannes festivals or her deep red Christian Dior strapless gown at the IIFA awards 2008 is no small stride made by the Indian It-Breast.
It's with a heavy chest that I worry about the outcome. The sari pallu will need to change its course and stop standing in the way of fun. Cholis will go under the tailor's scalpel for further reduction, grandmothers will need attitude augmentation. Men, who can never look away from a pretty pair of bangers, will quit playing their silly-funny game of looking up, down, here, there, only to come back to the breasts. They will stare directly. How boring.
With female breasts suffering from such serious overexposure, I have decided to take my gaze elsewhere. To Akshay Kumar's It-Tits. The Male Breast is the next big thing. Watch this space.