Time was that the bikini was a shocking rarity in Indian cinema,. The supposedly modest Indian woman being seen in this, the briefest of togs was a positive rarity so that each instance of the bikini clad Bollywood actress is etched into memory.
Raj Kapoor probably did the most to bring the bikini to Indian cinema and position it in the Indian male psyche as the ultimate fantasy. We would now call it modest; the beginning made with his iconic film Awara, when Nargis is seen to dive into the water in gay abandon in her one piece maillot. Then there was the altogether more bold, and for its time incredibly daring scene from Mera Naam Joker where Simi Grewal strips to her underwear and then proceeds to bare all.
It was Raj Kapoor once again who put the gauche young Dimple Kapadia in a little red bikini for Bobby. The fact that Zeenat Aman in Satyam Sivam Sundaram Mandakini then went a step beyond the bikini for Raam Teri Ganga Maili for Raj Kapoor is again the stuff of film lore.
Another memorable instance of Bollywood and the bikini was when Sharmila Tagore donned a blue number for Evening in Paris. The fact that Shammi Kapoor hanging from a helicopter showed more leg for the song Aasman se aya farishta, was really inconsequential.
It was Zeenat Aman again who memorably wore the bikini for Qurbani and underscored her status as reigning Bollywood sex symbol.
Now of course the bikini is almost boringly commonplace with each actress daring to bare more than the other. Now there is a briefer-the-better tussle among item girls and stars alike; with each trying to outdo the other showing off toned fit bodies. The two Chopras; Priyanka and Sherlyn, Mallika Sherawat, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta Minissha Lamba, Kareena Kapoor (very famously at size 0), Deepika Padukone (most recently) and countless others who have donned the fabled two piece.
Then there is the almost-bikini concept: which consists of the minimal bikini top and a more modest lower half of skirt, shorts or sarong. There were the almost-bikinis sported Aishwarya Rai in Dhoom 2 and Shilpa Shetty in Dostana (the strangely titled song Shut up and bounce). Even Rani Mukherjee in Dil Bole Hadippa displayed newly toned abs all the while gyrating under a water fall of some sort.
So evidently the bikini scene is some sort of rites of passage requirement for Bollywood today. The clingy wet sari is clearly not enough; a more obvious sort of display is required; actual skin over hint and sensuous suggestion. The understated has given way to the obvious; though when more is left to the imagination it can be more sensual. Bollywood has traditionally been extremely creative at titillating without actually baring. If the bikini has arrived on the scene is no uncertain terms, some would cheer; others would say, Pity!