There’s a scene in Hasee Toh Phasee that didn’t leave a dry eye in the theatre. Siddharth Malhotra’s Nikhil locks up Parineeti Chopra’s cuckoo Meeta in a room to keep her out of trouble. He forgets to let her out a few hours later. When he eventually does, he finds she has wet herself for want of a toilet. As she lies there, rolled up like a little bubblegum, wearing a trendy pink handloom sari and looking quite the glossy movie-star we adore in Karan Johar’s films, you can’t help but be taken back to Sridevi and Kamal Haasan in the heartbreaking Sadma (1983).
Chopra is like that. She brings on the slickness and shimmer required of movie stars but rolls them in a package of her own invention. At 5’8”, broad shouldered and sweetly pudgy, she’s nothing what we expect from our heroines. Her newest film sees her playing a depressive kleptomaniac genius who eats toothpaste, steals crores from her father and invents an energy-saving polymer. Clearly none of which Bolly actresses would ever do. But Chopra makes this the romcom to beat all romcoms.
I first saw Sonakshi Sinha at the Lakme Fashion Week where she was a participating fashion designer. She wore all-black Goth clothes and winged eyeliner. She was gorgeous, confident and rotund. She caught the fancy of Salman Khan who got her to lose a few pounds and cast her — 20 years younger than him — in Dabangg, a movie that set a benchmark in commercial success. Sinha followed it up with blockbuster after blockbuster, starring opposite A-list actors like Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn.
The 20-something soon began to be derided for her athletic frame: She looks too old to be cast opposite younger actors, they said, she could only be the meaningless heroine of potboilers. Then came Lootera, Sinha’s most compelling performance yet. She played a dying Bengali heiress in love with the thief who stole from her family, essayed by the smashing Ranveer Singh. Sinha was quickly reinvented with this film.
It seems terribly fashionable to mock these two actresses today. Both of them are lauded for their superlative histrionics and yet constantly made fun of for their uncustomary sizes. Neither can be called fat, or unhealthy. Instead both are rather attractive, toned and sexy too. Still, even contemporaries like Alia Bhatt on a chat show openly recommended Chopra to change her stylist.
Chopra features on Vogue India’s cover this month. It’s usually actors who make it to magazine covers, so clearly they must all be skinny and chic. Popular portal mumbaiboss.com has this to say about the cover: “Parineeti Chopra is not an easy star to style — she sits somewhere between Vidya Balan’s buxom curves and Kareena Kapoor’s slender but not whippet thin frame, and this is a problem for fashion magazines. Faced with the very normal proportions of an actress who has neither gorgeous flowing locks (a la Katrina Kaif) nor a designer clothes-friendly body (like Sonam Kapoor), fashion mag stylists resort to all kinds of funny things — remember the Harper’s Bazaar issue, her first major cover where her hair was flat ironed to a terrifying helmet of crispness? Or the only marginally better Grazia cover. In almost every frame, she sits neither here nor there — not exactly herself and yet not exactly as Vogue’s high fashion tenets would dictate she looks.”
There’s a charming scene in Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia (2009) where the gigantic Meryl Streep and her equally tall sister chuckle about “not marrying Republicans and breeding like rabbits”. “Look at us, we couldn’t fit in even if we tried,” Streep laughs.
Maybe their extra-special sizes are a disguised blessing. Maybe Chopra and Sinha do better than being just run-of-the-mill.