Bollywood Belly

There are lots of things to love about Bollywood: completely over the top song and dance numbers, hilarious plots, intermissions, stars so famous there are temples devoted to them (!)But my favorite aspect of Indian cinema? Leading ladies with a bit of meat on their bones!

Of course, Bollywood is not without its own beauty hang-ups. Stars are expected to be long-haired, large-eyed, fair-skinned and hour-glass-shaped. But six-pack abs, protruding hip bones and weird, dinosaur-esqe bony chests were noticeably absent from the screen. How lovely to see a more attainable body type portrayed by the media!

I wonder how growing up with these sorts of beauty icons affects young Indian girls’ body image.

Do you think your body image would be different if you’d grown up in a culture with more attainable standards of beauty?



I'm sorry to say this but this isn't Bollywood at all! I think these actresses are from the early 90s and are from south Indian films (not Bollywood).
Bollywood is extremely superficial- long dark hair, super skinny + flat tummy, fair skin, etc. A lot like Hollywood sadly..


Google Bipasha Basu or Kareena Kapoor if you want to see what Bollywood actresses look like… They're curvy and so beautiful!
The Bollywood industry is not so bothered with Size 0 figures as most South-Asian women are naturally curvy anyway!


I think this is all well and good, but like you start to point out, Indian girls are given other standards to worry about. Changing skin color is pretty unobtainable I'd say, unless you want to bleach your skin. Or eye shape.

I would love to see a society where the standards of beauty didn't mean people have to harm themselves to fit them, but I've yet to encounter it.


One thing I do have to add, though, is that as an American woman, I love seeing Indian women in saris. There was a huge Indian wedding at the restaurant I work at (like 500 people, giant imported elephant statues) and I really loved how women of all sizes wore their saris in a way that showed some of their bellies/backs. I wonder if there's a stigma for them, too, but I found it inspiring to see larger ladies showing parts of themselves that Americans would hide (or airbrush in photos)

katie d.

I took a belly dancing class and the one thing that I really took from it besides it being a great workout is that women's bodies look better when they have a little somethin-somethin to shake. 🙂


I agree with Vanessa and Weesha — every society has its hang-ups; India's happens to be slightly different from ours. The pressure to lighten skin and wear coloured contact lenses are just as prevalent and troubling as American pressures to lose weight and bleach hair.
It's true that Bollywood starlets are starting to conform to Western standards; think of Aishwarya Rai — touted as the most beautiful woman in the world! She's thin with light skin and large green eyes — attributes that tend to fall outside the norm in Indian society.

That said, I've always loved Kajol. She famously refused to pluck her unibrow or lose weight for films, and is a Bollywood ICON.


I don't really think promoting any one bodyshape above another is a good thing. A naturally skinny girl would surely feel just as bad if she were expected to be curvy as a curvy girl would if she were expected to be skinny.


That isn't bollywood! That is South Indian cinema. Bollywood is more mainstream; definitely more popular. For bollywood actresses, google Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor etc.

And yes, in India, just like in Pakistan, there are other hang-ups, unfortunately. Color of the skin is a BIG one. I am coffee colored and I've always wished for a lighter complexion.


I agree with Harriet. In Indian and Pakistan, they prefer a "healthy" look, girls with a little meat on their bones however they don't embrace all body types. While I think it's great if American media opened up a little more to the curvy girls, India isn't without it's flaws. If you are on either side of the extreme, it's horrible. I've notice this problem with girls who are naturally tiny and skinny. They get berated and called "anorexic". I wish the world could easily embrace all body types, I really do.

Chalkdust and Boots

While it's wonderful to see naturally curvaceous women on the Bollywood screen, I've noticed than in very recent years, some actresses seem to have gotten thinner and thinner (Preita Zinta springs to mind)…


Not to sound rude or condescending, but I never felt pressure to look like celebrities or models. It seems weird to me when women worry about other women's bodies. I have a hard enough time trying to manage my own life, maybe I am the weird one. The media has never made me feel bad about my body it was always REAL women in REAL life who made me uncomfortable.


I would love to see a society where there is NO "beauty standard." How can beauty have a standard? It's not a text book. Real beauty can't be tested, weighed, measured or proven. BUT to answer your question, yeah, I think I'd have a much more realistic idea of my own body if I hadn't grown up playing with Barbie dolls and mimicking movie stars.


I also agree with Harriet, as well as wingofhope and Vanessa. Every culture or society is going to have its own standard of beauty. There will ALWAYS be some people who don't fit in and who feel repulsive when they look at themselves in the mirror because they're too fat, too thin, too dark, too pale, etc.

I for one started to panic at the idea of a society where curves were the ideal shape for women. I grew up naturally stick-thin and was constantly berated for my thin frame. "Anorexic" was one of my nicknames in Jr High. A curvy body may never be attainable to me.

I don't agree with society accepting all body types. If we are actively destroying our bodies by regularly eating shitty, processed, high-fat foods, or if we are starving ourselves to look a certain way, that's not on.

"Healthy" doesn't necessarily have to mean "showing a bit of weight." Healthy should be each person's OWN ideal weight. That could mean a person weighs 110 lbs and shows "bones, bones, bones" OR it could mean a person weigh 200lbs!


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