By Ila Ananya
I was visiting Shanghai last week, and one morning my aunt was finally successful in getting me out of bed to go for a walk at 7.30 am. We saw about 15 women in a park, most in their 40s, doing exercise-dancing to music. I stared at them long enough for all of them to turn and glare at me, but if you’re as unfit and dying-to-be-instantly-fit as I am, the sight would have made you feel too like you should be doing what they were doing so happily.
When my colleague recently showed me Instagram photos and videos of incredibly fit, Indian women movie stars, I thought of these happy women back in Shanghai. Browse their Instagram feeds and you soon realised that it’s only the male stars who appear constantly shirtless, showing off their extra-built abs and arms, while the women prefer videos showing them kickboxing or holding their plank positions for ages.
And then there’s a whole other sub-genre that has easily became our favourite — the upside-down super-fit women movie stars. It’s apparently a thing. They’re fun because they don’t always give off the feel of an intense exercise-routine that you can never do. And only occasionally do they work as a gentle reminder that I could do cartwheels and handstands in school, but I can’t do them anymore.
Take this really calm looking picture of Diana Penty. She looks like she’s relaxed and used to looking up at her toes. It’s also the perfect set-up photograph: first, it’s in black and white, which makes everything look all peaceful and easy, and then it’s also right in front of a door, with all the light streaming inside. She’s also perfectly aligned with the doorframe, making you imagine holding yourself up in that position with no difficulty. Until you try to do it and crash.
While Penty’s photo looks calm, it does give off an exercise-vibe. It reminds me that I like to look at yoga books but hate attending yoga class. I love to run but hate jogging when people can see me. And I don’t mind a treadmill as long as the gym is empty. My colleague and I have a running joke about our non-existent exercise that always remains a plan — but this photo of Lisa Haydon, with the sunset and sea, makes her seem like she’s happily and effortlessly walking around on her hands. Why? Because it’s just so much fun, of course.
Sonakshi Sinha does her own version of Haydon’s happy cartwheel pose – except you can tell it’s a serious exercise moment with her yellow sports shoes and gloves. Sinha has quite happily captioned the photo, “I’m not upside down, the world is!”. Standing upside down is obviously much tougher than these stars make it seem, and these images tell people like me that if I can just find that one exercise routine I love, I’ll soon be able to be as happy and carefree as them. Finally a worthy aspiration for stars to set up for us all.
Jacqueline Fernandez is smiling as she stands on her head and waves her legs gaily, looking as though it really isn’t enough strain to be upside down – she needs more. It must be so easy to stay balanced and swing your legs around without falling into a tangle. It’s just like her other photos of being upside down with rather cheerful captions about how it’s yoga time. You might also remember that Fernandez was one of the 1,623 women (along with Sakshi Malik and Kalki Koechlin) who, together, made the Guinness Book of World Records in Mumbai earlier this month – for the most number of people holding an abdominal plank for a minute.
Hanging upside down after an aerial yoga class by the sea, Bipasha Basu says she’s just “monkeying around.” She makes it look easy in the same way that Sinha and Haydon made us feel like we might just succeed at it if we try. Basu’s many Instagram posts with her doing these intense exercises obviously adds to her commercial image of an exercise instructor— it’s almost like a behind-the-scenes look into the training that makes her an instructor who barely looks like she’s having a hard time with her routines.
It’s no wonder, then, that this effortlessness makes it seem like a little bit of practice will make sure you can be upside down and steadily controlling how and where your legs move — so steadily, that Daisy Shah’s caption just has to be: “Sometimes being upside down makes everything appear the right side up.” It’s only in these few visuals, surrounded by training equipment, that the full scale of these women’s fitness routines becomes evident.
These photos and videos are more exciting for us mortals to emulate than other fitness routines simply because they blissfully make us forget about the core strength, and arm strength, and the various other muscles you didn’t know you even had, that you have to use to achieve this. So perhaps the best way to end all this talk of super-fit movie stars is with this perfect post by Amala Paul. It’s really the best use of Boomerang we’ve ever seen, and it quite neatly sums up our reaction to all this happy upside-down star madness.
The Ladies Finger (TLF) is an online women’s magazine delivering fresh and witty perspectives on politics, culture, health, sex, work and everything in between.