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13 Bollywood Moments That Changed The Face Of Swimwear In India

Breaking the myth that a woman’s pride lies in what she covers, Bollywood actresses have been using swimwear to celebrate their freedom and sexiness for decades.

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1. The beginning.

The women's fashion scene in 1950s was dominated by sarees and ghagra cholis. A new era was ushered in by Nargis who was the first actress to wear a swimsuit in mainstream cinema (Awaara), shocking the Indian audience in post-independence India.
R.K. Films Ltd.

The women's fashion scene in 1950s was dominated by sarees and ghagra cholis. A new era was ushered in by Nargis who was the first actress to wear a swimsuit in mainstream cinema (Awaara), shocking the Indian audience in post-independence India.

2. The conservative.

Actresses got a tad bit more comfortable making black and white appearances in body-hugging swimwear, broadening the public threshold of tolerance and acceptance of freedom in fashion for women. Nutan wore a somber thigh-low costume in Dilli Ka Thug.
Famous Cine Lab & Studios / Via celebden.com

Actresses got a tad bit more comfortable making black and white appearances in body-hugging swimwear, broadening the public threshold of tolerance and acceptance of freedom in fashion for women.

Nutan wore a somber thigh-low costume in Dilli Ka Thug.

3. The revolutionary.

With colour in cinema, came splashes of fun and vitality. Sharmila Tagore's playful beach act in An Evening In Paris in the 1960s marked the beginning of the acceptance of women being sexy in a country ridden by messages of modesty.
Shakti Samanta / Via pinimg.com

With colour in cinema, came splashes of fun and vitality. Sharmila Tagore's playful beach act in An Evening In Paris in the 1960s marked the beginning of the acceptance of women being sexy in a country ridden by messages of modesty.

4. The bold.

Creating another stir in the country and this time an uproar in the Indian Parliament, Sharmila Tagore posed in a two-piece bikini for a Filmfare cover.
Filmfare / Via jugnistyle.com

Creating another stir in the country and this time an uproar in the Indian Parliament, Sharmila Tagore posed in a two-piece bikini for a Filmfare cover.

5. The sexy.

The 1970's saw the advent of the hippie culture in India and with it came it's carefree attitude with bold fashion statements. Sexy saw a new avatar resulting in actresses such as Zeenat Aman not just sizzling in their sensual bikinis, but also sporting it boldly.
F.K. International / Via indiatimes.com

The 1970's saw the advent of the hippie culture in India and with it came it's carefree attitude with bold fashion statements. Sexy saw a new avatar resulting in actresses such as Zeenat Aman not just sizzling in their sensual bikinis, but also sporting it boldly.

6. The natural.

Dimple Kapadia’s red two-piece in Bobby reached iconic status with her comfortably flaunting her bikini body for the majority of the film. The taboo of westernisation of the Indian woman's attire was ripped apart by then and the Indian woman got a renewed sense of self-pride and body-consciousness.
R.K. Films Ltd. / Via cineplot.com

Dimple Kapadia’s red two-piece in Bobby reached iconic status with her comfortably flaunting her bikini body for the majority of the film. The taboo of westernisation of the Indian woman's attire was ripped apart by then and the Indian woman got a renewed sense of self-pride and body-consciousness.

7. The seductress.

The 80s saw Bollywood divas flaunting their curves and attitude in sexy dance numbers like Parveen Babi in Yeh Nazdeekiyan loosening the strings of conservatism even further.
Vinod Pande

The 80s saw Bollywood divas flaunting their curves and attitude in sexy dance numbers like Parveen Babi in Yeh Nazdeekiyan loosening the strings of conservatism even further.

8. The cabaret queen.

Grabbing the Indian audience with all the razzmatazz of her erotic costumes and moves, Helen gave a seductive interpretation to the modern Indian woman, resulting in fashion bending towards elaborate and evocative, with a strong sense of self-pride.
Via imgarcade.com

Grabbing the Indian audience with all the razzmatazz of her erotic costumes and moves, Helen gave a seductive interpretation to the modern Indian woman, resulting in fashion bending towards elaborate and evocative, with a strong sense of self-pride.

9. The modernist.

Western influences in music and dance took over In the 1990s, when Bollywood actresses such as Urmila Matondkar flaunted their bodies uninhibitedly to sensual rhythms in non-classical dances.
Jhamu Sughand Productions

Western influences in music and dance took over In the 1990s, when Bollywood actresses such as Urmila Matondkar flaunted their bodies uninhibitedly to sensual rhythms in non-classical dances.

10. The pageant divas.

The 1990's was a decade of Indian beauties such as Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai taking over the international stage and being forerunners in all aspects including the swimsuit rounds.
Via indiatimes.com

The 1990's was a decade of Indian beauties such as Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai taking over the international stage and being forerunners in all aspects including the swimsuit rounds.

11. The size zero.

With the internet, came a paradigm shift when Indian women started aspiring to skinny and lean Western bodies. As a result, Kareena Kapoor's size zero body in Tashan allegedly led to an increase in anorexia and other eating disorders in young ladies in many parts of the country.
Yash Raj Films

With the internet, came a paradigm shift when Indian women started aspiring to skinny and lean Western bodies. As a result, Kareena Kapoor's size zero body in Tashan allegedly led to an increase in anorexia and other eating disorders in young ladies in many parts of the country.

12. The provocative male.

The concept of "styling" was introduced to Bollywood in the 2000s. John Abraham’s peekaboo swimming shorts grabbed a lot of eyeballs in Dostana, eroticising male swimwear as well. Priyanka Chopra's gold cut-out monokini was revolutionary, shifting the focus from functionality to fashion.
Dostana, Karan Johar / Via sheetudeep.com

The concept of "styling" was introduced to Bollywood in the 2000s. John Abraham’s peekaboo swimming shorts grabbed a lot of eyeballs in Dostana, eroticising male swimwear as well. Priyanka Chopra's gold cut-out monokini was revolutionary, shifting the focus from functionality to fashion.

13. The new normal.

Yash Raj Films
Dharma Productions
Fox Star Studios

With almost every actress donning a bikini at some point or another, two-pieces have become the Bollywood norm and lot has been written about the diet and fitness regimes the stars observe to keep donning them. While we've come a long way from the "modest" (i.e. oppressive) fashions of yesteryear, Bollywood still has a ways to go before it inclusively represents the wide swath of body types that make up its audience. (With a few exceptions, Bollywood's leading ladies are still "tall, thin, fair" like a classifieds shaadi listing would demand.) Your move, B'wood.

The author of this post is founder and editor of Styleogram.

And the noooooope.

Fox Star Studios

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