It's hard to believe Moon Moon Sen is sixty five. Even as we recall her mother in all her dazzling charm, we somehow tend to forget that Suchitra Sen was young nearly four decades ago and earlier. In the process, we have quite not remembered the very beautiful and very sexy Moon Moon, who once made us experience the sense of liberation that was in her. And how did she do that? She was spotted in swimming trunks, which was quite bold for a Bengali and an Indian woman to boot.
But, no, we are not complaining. Why should we? Long before Moon Moon Sen came along, there was Sharmila Tagore spotted in a bikini, in a movie of course, shot in distant Europe. And that was in the mid 1960s, an era when conservatism was yet the norm. It was a delight observing the leggy Tagore in much the same way it was wonderful watching Moon Moon's bare legs. Move on to the early 1980s, when Paroma revealed yet one more aspect of the sensuality of subcontinental women. Rakhee, in that never-to-be-forgotten physical relationship with her leading man, set a trend. After that, or so it seemed, there was no stopping Indian actresses from revealing more and more of themselves. Mandakini, always a roly-poly woman, drove men mad with those sizzling scenes in Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Zeenat Aman's openness, in every sense of the term, caused forest fires aplenty.
Ah, but we have moved away from Moon Moon Sen's age. Yes, she is all of sixty five and a very beautiful one at that. That is not what you can say about so many other women. Pakistan's Shamim Ara, once a typically charming actress, almost pastoral in behaviour, grew old less than gracefully. Asha Parekh, a craze among movie-goers through much of the 1960s, has too many wrinkles these days. The old flame in her is gone. You could say almost the same thing about Waheeda Rehman. But here in Bangladesh, the sisters Babita and Champa have had their age enhance the state of their beauty. That is refreshing, certainly. Some women, ravishing in looks, never seem to grow old. Think of Joan Collins here.
A fantastic beauty is Helen Mirren. You see the signs of age all along her neck, but those necklines make her even more desirable than she was in her youth. And Catherine Deneuve remains a siren for many men around her, even those who were tiny schoolboys when she was already famous for her movies. In Jayaprada, once serenaded for her beauty by none other than Satyajit Ray, there is yet fire that could heat up passion in men.
There are other marks of beauty in actresses. You spot it in the sensuous Aparna Sen. In the sheer physical sense, she turns every man into a worshipper of the goddess-woman; intellectually she is a writer's dream, a woman you would want to have coffee and conversation with by a fireplace in the middle of a cold, howling night.
The writer is Executive Editor,
The Daily Star