Thursday, February 01, 2007

Flicked from "Times Life" from the Sunday edition of Times of India, 28th Jan '07

No wonder then, that it’s in this very year that ace photographer Raghu Rai’s nudes come out of the closet for a rare exhibition for the first time. Rai, who believes that nudes are an expression of appreciation of the female form, says, “The
If you think the nude human form is titillating, you’re hopelessly outdated. Nudity today, is all about celebrating innocence and soul-stirring creativity. Nona Walia reports
“I enjoy nakedness. I am a bit of a naturist at heart.”

– Robbie Williams

“I was born naked and I’m going to die naked, so I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

– Justin Timberlake

THERE’S a new stubbornness with which nudity is being thrown in our faces. In 2007, nudity isn’t cheap or titillating. In fact, it’s coming into vogue! This fashionable nudity may be sensational, but at the same time, it’s innocent and fragile.

Just how is this soulful nudity different from, say, model Kate Moss stripping off in public view for the lingerie brand Agent Provocateur? Or the media going into a Fashion Week frenzy over wardrobe malfunctions and nipple slips? Perhaps there’s no one better than Bill Farley, vice-president of Playboy, the empire that’s been erected on taking nudity to the masses, to explain just why nudity is more than just a skin show. “Nudity isn’t vulgar, it is an art. It’s pure. And nudity can be innocent. People are obsessed with nudity because it defines the new erotic in an artistic way.”

So nudity isn’t just about sensationalism. It’s about teasing a new creativity. Maybe, that’s the reason, in 2007, we’re seeing a rise of mature nudity. Look at Maxim’s latest cover girl, Mallika Sherawat, giving new meaning to sensual, subtle exposure. Or John Abraham’s sizzling bare body lending austere authenticity to roles in Anurag Kashyap’s No Smoking and Ram Gopal Varma’s Nishabd.

re’s an art in shooting nudes. There’s something very mystical about it.” In fact, fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar who’s also shot quite a number of barely-clad lovelies for the Kingfisher calendars, says, “Nudes can be very sensual and startlingly beautiful. But they can also be very tasteless, bordering on the vulgar. That’s when nudity becomes offensive. When you shoot nudes, there’s a certain aesthetic at work. For me, doing nudes is a pure form of selfexpression, where my camera tries to focus on the sensuality of the natural form of the nude.”

And nudity isn’t always about being sexy. Why then, are models so eager to go naked for fashion? Says model Sapna Kumar, “If a nude is done tastefully, I think it’s pure and innocent. But today, the media loves to sensationalise nudity. That’s a turnoff.” According to painter Arpana Cour, nudity varies from person to person and holds a mirror to the kind of people we are. “As an artist, I find Amrita Shergill’s nude self-portrait very innocent. Can you imagine, nudity being innocent!? We’ve got dirty minds… That’s why we think nudity can only be erotic or titillating! We’ve adopted such rigid parameters of right and wrong.” So finally, nudity all depends on how you look at it. Agrees actor Laila Rouass, “Nudity can be the purest form of self-expression, a woman’s body is erotic. But men view nudity as sexual, in a voyeuristic way. That’s when it becomes sensational.”

But the truth is, nudity isn’t just physical. It has an emotional aspect to it. Like fashion designer Suneet Varma observes, “Nudity is about understanding and feeling your own body in different situations. Nudity isn’t sexual. I’ve been to a nude beach in Spain. On the first day, I was unable to go to the beach naked. I was the only fully clothed person. The next two days, I was stark naked on the beach. I was one with the sun, sand and the sea. At a nudist beach, the idea is not to think of your body as erotic or sexy. It’s a soul-stirring experience. I didn’t feel sexy. No one was looking at me. Most designers idealise a woman’s nude form, but there’s a sense of beauty in nudity. I feel fashion is the politest way to talk about sex, while nudity isn’t about sex but about the soul.”