Abhinav Shukla talks about how the extreme pressure that people take on themselves to look good at all times..

I remember speaking to my mother few days back, at night, which is our routine; each day, my Mom and Dad will check up on me at night, before going to sleep. That’s the only time we talk ever since I moved to Mumbai to pursue my career in Bollywood. She told me that my grandmother, who is in her late 80s, was unwell and had come over, so that my mother could take care of her.

Knowing my nature, the conversation soon steered towards the debate whether she should be taking any medication. My mother reminded me that my grandfather was 88, and had never taken any medicines ever. I remembered the incident a few years ago when he was sick and everybody in my family was so concerned about him, taking turns to convince him to take the medicines prescribed to him. And I remember, like a resilient child, he kept refusing. 15 years have passed and he is still healthy, though a bit frail.

Finally, my mother and I ended the conversation feeling proud of my grandparents. They survived, they were born at a time when malnutrition was rampant, they have seen partition, war with our neighbours, famine, multivitamin deficiencies, endemic diseases, and so on. You know, they were born at a time when a capsule of B-complex was called ‘taakat ki dawai’. They have not only survived but are also healthy.

Now, a couple of hours later, I got a message on my WhatsApp group that Sridevi passed away. I was neither shocked, nor sad, but yes, I was a bit surprised. I had never known her personally and was not her fan. I was sort of ignorant about her stardom, till the time I checked social media and discovered that everybody was mourning her death today.

My next question was regarding how the news had reached a few WhatsApp groups, much before it had reached the media. People were speculating, and someone said heart attack. Now, I have a great deal of difficulty remembering years and ages of people; the numbers always elude me. So I googled her age. The search engine said 54. I was like, what? I mean that’s too early, so unfortunate and untimely. Anyway, knowing that a lot of people loved her, I typed the obligatory cliché’ ‘RIP’.

The next day was a day full of all sorts of statuses coming up on my FB wall and suggestions on Instagram. Realisation donned upon me that she was a Superstar in the real sense. But because its 2018 and everybody with a working 3G/4G has an opinion, I was waiting for something other than the clichés– ‘RIP’ and ‘Shocked’. And the 3G/4G generation never fails to validate my opinion about the generation. The compulsiveness of our generation, to quickly and morally judge every incident, manifested itself through some random, unverified news articles and statuses, saying that she was under a lot of pressure to look the way she looked before, for which she went to extremes of dieting and multiple surgeries.

But that’s the opinion of people and I know it was too quick to be posted on social media, as the family and near ones are still in grief. But then, you cannot stop people from expressing their opinion. In my opinion, people who are coming up with different theories should stop here and not intrude in her private life any further. Let the medical professionals or her family do the rest of the investigation.

But I will continue my opinion about our industry, the changing definition of beauty and the pressure on people in our industry to go to extremes to look good. But looking good is “subjective”.

We are a generation dependent on synthetic vitamins and minerals, medicines, performance enhancers, organic food, flax seeds, whey protein, creatinine, Omega 3 and quinoa, often pronounced by my fellow actors as “kinoowaaa”; in fact it’s “keenwa”! The reason I am highlighting this is because we all are in a rat race, the race where our goals are set– looking at Instagram pics and those emotional/motivational videos on FB where a guy with six packs is marketing a fancy health drink or a female with totally absurd hip-to- waist ratio is claiming how eating some fancy herb from across the continent changed her body ratio.

How do you explain this? Quinoa is not of Indian origin. We don’t even have a Hindi word for it as it is of South American origin. But wait a minute, how did it get so famous????? You don’t have to go much far– you must have seen those dumb Instagram paid videos of celebs, who actually claim to be fitness experts, marketing some sort of health drink made from a foreign grain, nicely packaged in a very organic and healthy looking carton. And you must surely have seen a guy, who is clearly on anabolic stuff, marketing a fungus from the cracks of the Himalayas, claiming that it has increased his anabolism (muscular appearance).

Our generation has not only put pressure on our contemporaries but also on the pre-millennials.

How many of us have convinced our moms to visit a dermatologist? Or convinced her to take some sort of multivitamin, organic potion, D3, Cyanocobalamin injections or the recent rage, Glutathione? Let’s be honest. We are a digital generation, convincing our otherwise healthy parents/grandparents to switch to the latest engineered food and supplements, because we have a sense of false superiority over them. We think we know more, have studied more and are more aware of health facts (which are actually distorted studies, done by colleges, whose research program is being funded by the health drink manufacturer). And if we do not directly convince our parents to fall prey to the latest health food/supplements fad, we visually load them with pics and videos, leaving them no space but to think that beauty is what they see on social media.

Our definition of beauty has fast been changing– from the time of Dharmendra, when that sort of stout but natural physique and organic acting made many people drool over him, to nowadays, when physique is nothing but a muscular anatomical mannequin with robotic acting, making people go crazy! We are always looking for something more drastic– more drastic lips, more drastic cheek bones, liposunctioned buccal folds, absurd muscle ratios, and the most dreaded– implants and oil fillers. The definition of beauty is changing as fast as the size of lips in our industry, and as the public looks up to us, we are setting a standard for them. A standard which has changed exponentially in last few years.

It’s not been much time since fillers came to Indian market. Same with supplements, fat-burners and all the body enhancing drugs; and it’s too sudden for researchers to realise the long-term effects of these performance or body-image enhancers, as the generation which heavily depends on it will start showing signs and symptoms only when they hit their 50s or 60s. That’s when billions will be spent on concealing the ill-effects of all these aids; eventually they won’t be able to conceal it.

So let’s say when my contemporaries will be 70, we will be flooded by all sorts of news and research about how all these aids/implants/injectables have long-term harmful effects– just like the big-time, heavyweight champion of all time: “the cholesterol theory”, which now has been declared by researchers as totally baseless.

The early demise of people in our industry could be just the tip of the iceberg. I can predict there will be laws soon to prohibit the use of aids and drugs to change your body structure, and like all laws, they will originate in a Western nation and then will be adapted in India after a few years. By then I will be 75 or 80, or maybe gone.

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