Milind Soman and Subtle Art of Male Elegance

Pop Culture

Milind Soman and Subtle Art of Male Elegance

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Almost 3 decades ago Milind Soman emerged from a box in a song sung by Alisha Chinai. Though the image preceded my childhood the moment I discovered it on youtube, it was imprinted in my brain simply because of how sultry and elegant it looked. Until then, male bodies were excruciatingly associated with hairy chests and animalistic avatars, but Soman introduced a more metrosexual yet desi view of masculinity. Round about the same time Salman Khan was beginning to take off his shirt as the first time of asking, but represented a more muscular geometry. Soman was different, desirable and yet not as intimidating.

Male bodies were excruciatingly associated with hairy chests and animalistic avatars, but Soman introduced a more metrosexual yet desi view of masculinity.

Decades later he is back in another music video Shringaar, sung by Akasa and Aastha Gill. We see him in the song with kohl in his eyes, sporting a nose-pin, as he moulds pottery with his muscular yet lean arms. When he looks at you from across the screen, it’s almost as if he can see right through you, and if I am to go a bit far, then your desires. It’s a bit odd really to be mesmerized by a man squatting in front of clay pot, unmoved, staring at the camera and still arousing all these feelings on the inside.

Shringaar, like Made In India, depicts Soman as a proposition. A case almost literally, with the latter. He is the ultimate object of desire, and framed through the same salacious gaze across generations. But unlike other acts of objectification, this one feels eloquent, and worthy. It’s not just the camera, but also the man who commandeers it with his gaze. Soman, for that matter has been pivotal to the phenomenon of male objectification, setting the bar early in his career, and now re-defining it by shouldering inclusivity and broader specifications of masculinity. Shringaar is merely evidence of all that and more.

Both Made In India, and Shringaar, kind of do what Tareefan did in showing men as eye candies for a change that women could devour and play with as they pleased.

Moreover, while most men in the modern age see masculinities adjacent to gyms and protein powders alone, Soman has actively promoted and built an identity around natural imports like running and yoga. He has also consciously dived into the discourse of embracing fitness, not to look good, but to feel good, in a time where many men are hell-bent on flexing. Perhaps, no one has done fitness as comprehensively and as gracefully as Soman, not even some of the well-built men, primarily because Soman’s fitness regime is as external as internal, and that’s one memo most forget to deliver.

Both Made In India, and Shringaar, kind of do what Tareefan did in showing men as eye candies for a change that women could devour and play with as they pleased. After Made In India, there have been plenty of songs that have sensualized men, from John Abraham’s tantalising show of the butt crack in Shut Up & Bounce, to Shahrukh Khan’s fiery display of abs in Dard-e-Disco, to Akshay Kumar and John Abraham’s strip tease in Desi Boyz. Soman’s, in comparison are elegant overtures that attest to masculinity the glitter of a hidden intellectualism. He shows his body not as an object, but as calling card to the complex personality behind it. With him, it actually feels like performance. Objectification in any context is debatable but Soman’s aura ensures we register the respect, before we discover the passion.

Objectification or rather sensual projection when done in a tasteful manner, without having the intention of titillating an audience, automatically looks dignified.

Objectification or rather sensual projection when done in a tasteful manner, without having the intention of titillating an audience, automatically looks dignified. Maybe that is how it should always have been with women. Soman not only represents this rare breed of man that he himself is now representing decades apart that not only espouses beauty but also principle and value. Married to a woman, half his age, the former model has pursued his courtship, despite public criticism, with utmost grace. His feels like a grounded relationship, punctuated by everyday things that people do, rather than the glamour of things most can only dream of doing. It is testament to how comfortable he has remained in his own skin, over the years, not to mention how incredibly godly he continues to look while doing all this and more.

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