New Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) The leading ladies of Hindi filmdom are in for serious competition from none other than their male counterparts with an ever increasing number of them shedding inhibitions and showing off chiseled torsos and butts.
Whether it is still shots of Bollywood's Adonis -- John Abraham -- with his shorts half pulled down, showing more than a hint of sculpted butt, in upcoming release "Dostana" or it is the towel-dropping scene of "Saawariya" filmed on Ranvir Kapoor, male nudity is on the high in Indian films.
Looking desirable matters, believes "Dostana"-maker Karan Johar. "No mainstream actor should run away from being sexy," he says. "It's as important for a man to look sexy as it is for a woman. Every superstar has had a high sex appeal - be it Mr. Bachchan, SRK or Hrithik. One must look desirable to be desirable."
"Dostana" promises plenty of display of male sexuality. The film features John in a pseudo homosexual relationship with Abhishek Bachchan even as both hanker for sizzling-hot Priyanka Chopra. Incidentally, Abhishek was named a gay icon a couple of years ago and will be seen working his brooding sexiness to the hilt in the film.
Director Apoorva Lakhia, who made "Shootout at Lookanwala" and "Mission Istanbul", believes that in India women don't go and watch action films, so it helps to have sexy looking men. And in a macho film, it is not uncommon to see girls doing awe-inspiring action stunts while the men look good.
Even mighty superstar Shah Rukh Khan realized what women want when he worked on his abs to reach six-pack status in his last mega hit "Om Shanti Om" after spending nearly two decades without having to take off his shirt for any scene.
The mood in the industry is that these days women want male skin show. It is in demand, says Abhay Deol, a relative newcomer in the industry. Hitting the gym was the first item on Hrithik Roshan's 'to-do' list when he set his eyes on entering filmdom. He managed his first hit without having to show his six-packs but when he had to revive his sagging fortunes it was an open shirt and extremely-low waist jeans that helped.
On the other side of the globe, Hollywood has always known that sex sells more than anything else. In fact, male frontals are getting unprecedented screen time at the multiplex these days -- in mainstream popcorn fare and broad comedies -- thanks in large part to comic mogul Judd Apatow, who has pledged to shake Americans from their squeamishness about male anatomy in movies.
And the girls are more than happy.
"I'm so glad Indian women are finally checking men out openly," says original Kama Sutra girl Pooja Bedi. "But more than that, it's fantastic that Indian men are toning up and daring to bare... There's nothing as appealing as a well built, confident man who doesn't mind some skin show."
And men have noticed them. "Men are growing increasingly insecure about their own appearance after a generation of being bombarded by images of idealized male physiques," says Harvard psychiatrist Roberto Olivardia, author of the book "The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession" wherein he warns that increasing number of men are suffering from image disorder signified by dependence of a person's self-esteem on appearance.
This could well be fodder for another film, as a slew of recent films in the marquees are dealing with various aspects of male sexuality from male sex-workers to male sexual abuse.
Though homosexuality finds substantial screen time in upcoming "Dostana", the subject is increasingly finding mention in some serious films as well.
Take for instance, Sudipto Chattopadhyay's "Pankh" deals with the sexual identity of a man and is set against the backdrop of the film industry. A small boy who plays a girl in Hindi films grows up to deal with an identity crisis.
"The young man is caught in a psychological matrix of gender confusion that has been imposed on him by his social circumstance," says Sudipto. Manish Gupta, who has written four hard-hitting scripts for Ram Gopal Varma, is ready with his "Hostel".
This is no romantic college caper, the film deals with the bold subject of rape, that too of a male student. Saurabh Sengupta's "It's a Man's World" is equally stark, about male prostitution.