When Bollywood sits down to write its obituaries for 2017 and do the year-end scroll of "in memoriam" it will have to write the biggest one for "sexiness". For, two of its sexiest stars of all time bid adieu to this world in 2017.
Vinod Khanna and Shashi Kapoor were the very definition of sexiness from the time they hit the silver screen. For generations of women, ranging from grandmothers to granddaughters, Khanna and Kapoor kept the mush alive in the rapidly-beating hearts.
My introduction to the concept of "sexy" was in fact via Vinod Khanna. At home, a sense of gender equality prevailed. Boys were simply compatriots who talked, walked and behaved differently but were not necessarily objects to covet.
I studied in a co-educational convent and engaged in healthy competition in studies and games with boys. Beating the boys at the game of kho-kho during interval gave us a special sense of high but it still was not viewed through separate-sex tinted glasses.
This went on till Juju; the daughter of Colonel Sud arrived on campus. She had studied in Darjeeling, seen as a more hip place than Doon, and somewhere abroad as she had us believe. So Juju, with her overt, open attitude towards all things, mostly boys, was our passport through puberty into the vast Neverland of hormones and its temptations.
We began ignoring requests by the boys for table tennis or kho-kho and instead poured over Juju's notepad, as she drew the low-belted "X" to describe the virile physique of Vinod Khanna. She explained how the "X" showed Khanna's strong, broad shoulders and pectorals, a robust, fat-free torso, the narrow waist from which slung the taut pelvic zone. The "X" and the chin cleft completed the visage of a super sexy hero who would begin to star even in our dreams.
Standing on the No.1 pedestal with Khanna and Kapoor have been only a few more men who have exuded raw, manly attraction. Jayant, father to Amjad Khan and Imtiaaz, with his fair, sharp features and towering Pathan personality was, without doubt, a very handsome and good-looking man.
Shashi Kapoor's father was definitely the erstwhile torchbearer or so I discovered in the pre-board years close on the heels of getting formally introduced to Vinod Khanna's X-factor.
With the awareness of the new desires and yearnings that men could stir in us, I watched Prithviraj Kapoor, my breath held close to my chest, as he essayed the role of Alexander in the eponymous film shown by Doordarshan on Sunday nights. I didn't quite care about his shenanigans with Porus, but with his square-jawed, light eyed, Greek God face, tall frame, sinewed, muscled hamstrings in those short Athenian skirts and a smooth baritone, Prithiviraj Kapoor as a larger than life persona, was conquering to rule my little heart.
For my 11th, I had to shift, to my dismay and horror, to the all-girls Convent of Jesus and Mary. Since distance makes the heart grow fonder, the all-girls environment made the girls more aware of the boys, in a pining sort of way; that and the fact that we were all in our hormone-enriched teens. Leading the brigade here was the beauteous, peaches and cream complexioned and sophisticated Seema, Brigadier Gulati's daughter who lived in Gun House, the most prestigious address in the Cantonment.
The ride to and from school in our giant three-tonne school truck was made entertaining and aspirational by Seema's stories and feats, and even at that age, she was one hell of a raconteur. One Monday, she got on the bus with her left hand covered in a dainty, chiffon kerchief. She began to regale us with her Sunday escapade in the Queen of Hills and her chance meeting with Sanjay Dutt at the Mussoorie Skating Rink. She talked about how he had looked dreamily into her eyes, teased her a bit, kissed her hand and signed his name on the back of it. She pulled off the fabric dramatically to show the imprint that Dutt had presumably left on her hand.
In the days that rolled by, we discovered that it was a story fed on an over-appetite of Mills & Boon that Seema had dished out to us. We found out that there had been no such meeting but we also realised that Sanjay Dutt had become an MB hero for urban, convent girls in their late teens with levels of oestrogen fired up.
I finally got to meet Sanjay Dutt, about two years down the line from Seema's fictional story. He had come to Prabhat, one of the more popular cinema halls in Doon, for the premiere of his second film. Dressed in a blue suede blazer and stonewashed blue jeans the latest boy-man sensation was truly sexy. Radiant complexion with pink undertones, a green, 5o'clock shadow and those dreamy, deep-set eyes made him even more luscious. I don't know how I got to be the only girl in the Theatre Owner's Chamber amongst a swelling group of local boys, but I caught Dutt's attention. He signed my autograph book with "love you too much", he made me sit between him and Gulshan Grover, his co-star in the film, for the length of the evening and in between exchanged small talk with me.
I am sure he must have had big laughs at my expense, but when I refused to take his address he was slightly startled. I told him I preferred giving him mine so that I would know for sure that he would actually wish to correspond with me. He let the most genial smile escape; he held my hand in promise and said he understood me well. That day, I found first-hand why he was indeed the Deadly Dutt. It has been of personal sadness to me, then, to see him devolve to a dopey, drooping Dutt.
The earlier famous Khans - Feroze and Sanjay too were among the sexiest men of Bollywood. Feroze Khan, of course, was such a snazzy, seductive looker and his picture-perfect good looks overshadowed most of his contemporaries, from his earliest films through the Qurbani days of fame up until Welcome, one of the last he shot.
I had never found Sanjay Khan to be quite in the league of his international-appeal brother. But when I met him in 2005 at The Imperial Hotel, in spite of age having advanced and a freak accident having left its mark, Sanjay Khan was an extremely charming man with that irresistible and distinctive Khan charisma.
I was beckoned sharply by the general manager because a big film group was creating a ruckus in 1911 Lawns. Being the head of PR and communications it fell under my purview to see who was disrupting the decorum and disturbing other guests. The entourage pointed me in the direction of Sanjay Khan, who was here to do a reconnoitre.
For one, I noted that he was far better looking than he ever looked on-screen. His suaveness, the savoir-faire, the perfectly clipped accent and the immaculate gentlemanliness added to his flamboyance. He shook my hand, he told me that he would be mindful of the hotel's rules and thanked me profusely for my involvement. It was all done with such smooth silkiness that I came back to the GM having turned a Khan camper and found myself giving a wide berth to Sanjay Khan's use of our hotel, though within limits.
Jackie Shroff was the epitome of manhood and sexiness from his modelling days and he scorched the screen for most women in Parinda. Dressed simply in a black wife-beater and faded blue jeans, he turned our collective hearts to pulp as he menacingly strode the steps up to meet Nana Patekar's character. The well-formed legs enveloped perfectly in Denim, the muscular arms and the fit body with lip-smacking glamorous looks sent most women into a tantalizing tizzy and the men into a deep womb of envy.
I missed meeting Jaggu Dada by one day during my Hyatt Regency days. He came for a film party on a Sunday and being part of non-operations management I was off. But the next day the hotel was abuzz with the deliciously divine Jackie stories, how he had women swooning and how all men were his Bro, well actually his home-grown precursor "Bhidu" - his equalising term of endearment for all, right from the officious director of food and beverage to the youngest busboy.
Shashi Kapoor's death in the end of 2017 has really plucked away the kings of sexiness, who have ruled our hearts for generations. I had the good fortune of meeting Shashi ji - the only Kapoor who was truly sexy in the otherwise very suave and stylish family of Kapoor men - in 2005. The fact that he had a chronic ailment and was on a wheelchair did not take away in the least his intrinsic magnetism and sex appeal. He held one of my hands in his left, gave me a semi-hug with his right arm, looked into my eyes and in the most entrancing, uniquely Shashi accent said to me, "How are you, darling?" And I just melted away having been completely shot to smithereens by Shashi Kapoor's magical spell.
I think he guessed it or at least his twinkling hazel eyes and the one-sided, million dollar smile had me so believe. I realised, sexiness can never be about age, wealth or put on and practiced attitude. Either you have it or you simply don't!
Like any other attribute, sexiness too is subjective. Therefore, what may be sexy for you may not be so for me and vice versa. But there have been these men who have set the definition of sexiness in stone, separating the ordinarily earthy from the celestially divine.
2017 saw the sexiest two icons from Bollywood take a hike to heaven. But not before handing over the flame to the reigning Prince. Hrithik Roshan, the Adonis of Bollywood, with his chiselled looks and top-notch abs, his Green eyes that actually smile and speak, his locks of hair that are entrapments for a zillion hearts, his nimble footedness, his intelligence, his boyish charm and lusting-after manliness, his half grin that could light up a stadium and his genuine warmth make him the rightful contender.
The only time I met Hrithik was at The Spice Route, the award-winning restaurant at The Imperial. On my customary walk around the hotel's public places as the then director of PR, I met Hrithik and Sussanne just as they were warming up for lunch. A couple of hours later, as I dined with the editor of a leading city supplement, Hrithik came to my table to exchange few more pleasantries and thank me for my hospitality. I don't think I had signed off his check but the dashingly gracious gentleman wanted to come by and express gratitude because he had enjoyed a fine lunch. Such was the sense of familiarity and bonhomie that the editor felt I had known Hrithik for a long time.
Sexiness, it so appears, is far beyond looks and personality, wealth and acquired style. It rests lightly on the shoulders of those who have it and tempts from afar those who don't. Sexiness is innate, it is a gifted quality, it is a way of life and thinking, it is how you let others shine even as your own reflection sparkles.
Kapoor and Khanna, undoubtedly owned it; and Roshan thankfully has picked up the baton from where the legends left off!