The macho Indian’s masculinity once was sacrosanct. There was a time when ‘beauty products and parlours’ were the exclusive domain of women. Men went to the barber’s shop for a haircut and shave and any attempt by the barber to put any sort of cream after the shave was rudely brushed off by saying “Mein ladki hoon kya?”. Even the campaign to make India ‘fair’ (gora) was targeted at girls, more specifically girls of marriageable age. Even when Mr Metrosexual arrived in India, the advertisers were very careful not to hurt or question the masculinity of the Indian macho man. Remember the ad in which Shahrukh Khan is seen scolding a young boy for using ‘ladkiyon waali’ fairness cream. When people questioned this colonial mindset, covert racism and obsession with the fair skin, the macho Indian stars like Hrithik Roshan, John Abraham, and others took refuge in euphemism. All said that they’re not promoting fairness creams but products that rejuvenate dull skin, restore its lost sheen and remove dark spots. But this mask of machoism came off when marketers tapped Mr Narcissist, who has been for long lurking somewhere in man’s sub-consciousness. Suddenly, we were told that putting the best face forward was no longer narcissism. In fact, it was pragmatic and practical. One should feel good and look good became the new mantra of male grooming revolution in India. Face wash, moisturiser, mascara, pore strips and hair removal products were no longer a taboo for man. In fact, we were told that makeup gives men “masculine benefits” by contouring a more pronounced jawline, by attracting women, or by fixing so-called “skin problems”.
Even that ‘tall dark and handsome’ man started taking help of the concealers to cover up blemishes on his face because he was told that makeup makes him look powerful, sexy and masculine. Looking at campaigns of male beauty products on TV and mushrooming of unisex parlours, one can say that Mr Narcissist, like a WWF wrestler, has pinned down Mr Macho Man. One fact which clearly amplifies the male makeup has become normal in India is that now like the bride, the bridegroom also goes to the beauty parlour and spends as much time there as the bride.
So, with due apologies to Mr Bob Dylan, one can say that not only the times are achangin’ but things have also changed.