Bolly leaders Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan were hot back then or do they sizzle now? We debate

Most of our actors started their career in an alarmingly frumpy avatar — Neanderthal-like physique, hideous sideburns and a wardrobe befitting a zebra on steroids. In other words: Hairy chests, long unsightly hairstyles and a misplaced sense of style.

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Salman’s long hair-do in Andaaz Apna Apna was cringe-inducing and so was Akshay Kumar’s lush tropical rain forest on his chest in his early films like Saugandh.

Ajay Devgn’s look in Phool Aur Kaante was simply an eyesore and Saif Ali Khan looked like a total space cadet with his boarding school accent and long hair in films like Parampara, Main Khiladi Tu Anari and Yeh Dillagi. His Ole Ole act was a joke with his Mississippi-long hair flying all over the camera. All in all most of our actors needed a good hair cut; some even needed a shower and a seasoned stylist back then.

Blame it on the ’90s grunge or a lack of awareness about the importance of grooming, most actors stood out like a sore thumb as they danced in baggy pleated trousers and wore jarring prints.

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Today almost all the stars in the top 10 are in their 40s. The conventional wisdom in media has always been that an actor nearing 50 reaches his expiration date and can kiss his career goodbye. The boys of the ’90s are challenging this notion by continuing to work in big movies, major advertising campaigns and hit television shows. In short, they are ruling the industry.

Take a look at how they have reinvented themselves and stayed at the top of the game. The dudes have nurtured a distinctive sense of style and better bodies. They even get a thumbs up from the stylists, designers, socialites and fitness experts.

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Salman Khan
Biwi Ho To Aisi (1988)
Salman Khan was always a heartthrob. He also had an inherent style. This quintessential bad boy with long locks and bulging biceps was a chick magnet. In his 40s, he dropped the bad boy and become the good guy.

The boyish charm has been replaced by the come-to-daddy attitude. Always ready to help anyone in need, he has made Being Human a full time job. At 47, he is till single (so sexy) and a role model to the younger actors — Ranbir Kapoor and Imran Khan admitted as much. Girls want him, guys want to be him.

Chhaya Momaya, life coach, says, “I find him sizzling hot now compared to the time when he started. Salman has retained his youthful looks over the years. Be it his T-shirt and denim appeal or his worked-out body.

There is a maturity on his face and he conveys a more responsible and grown-up air now unlike his early years when he was a prankster and had a child-like innocence.”

Akshay Kumar
Saugandh (1991)

Khiladi No. 1 made his debut in B-Town 22 years ago. He was always a good looker and had a fit body but he was not the most nattily dressed guy in town. He shaved off his chest, ditched the shirt-jeans with sneakers look and discovered his personal style.

The actor has always reigned high on the hot-o-meter, but presently he scores higher than he ever did!

Fitness expert Deanne Pandey says, “Akshay looks much hotter now and he has reversed the ageing process. Thanks to his martial art, functional workout, strict diet, he looks fresh but not plastic. He wakes up early and is not into artificial supplements. There is not a trace of fat, grey hair or wrinkle.”

Ajay Devgn
Phool Aur Kaante (1991)

He had side-swept hair, crooked teeth, a lanky frame and was dressed badly according to B-Town’s filmi designers. But what worked for him was his strong silent persona and his confidence.

Two decades later, the confidence has doubled, the hair is now a sexy crewcut and the body is chiselled. And he is a doting father.

Which we find incredibly sexy. We’d pick the current Devgn over the old one any day.  Fitness guru Leena Mogre says, “Ajay is 100 per cent better now. He was a disaster in Phool Aur Kaante. He looked really bad and was not groomed at all”
(With inputs from Manish Mishra)

Saif Ali Khan
Parampara (1992)

Saif Ali Khan had only one way to go. The Pataudi prince looked weird, talked weird and danced weird. He was never taken seriously. Sure, he had the charm and the royal lineage but that only got him so far. SAK cleaned up his act as he got older.

The duck turned into a swan. He was suddenly sexy. Then he found success. Somewhere in between his journey from boyhood to manhood, Saif got the ladies to get up and take notice. And they are hooked. Aarti Surendranath, producer, says “When Saif came into films, he had an ex-boarding school-ish look.

For the last eight to nine years, he’s combined his personality and legacy which reflects in the way he dresses, his body has evolved and he is revelling in it.” Designer Ken Ferns agrees, “Saif has had an amazing transformation. He’s proved that he’s got the nerve to take up the style challenge. He still has a paunch but that doesn’t come in the way of his personality.”

Aamir Khan
Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)

Aamir Khan always had that cute, boy-next-door charm. He was never classified as hot. He decided to change that with Ghajini. He developed muscles and dropped his shirt. If Salman Khan went from bad boy to good boy, Aamir did the opposite. It was not just the characters that he played on screen that changed.

He changed too. The family guy divorced his childhood sweetheart-turned-wife and led the bachelor life for a while. Till he found love again. The new papa is now cooler than he ever was. The way he constantly reinvents himself is sexy. Watch out for him in Dhoom 3. Designer Rajat Tangri says, “Aamir can still look like a college student or a pre-colonial villager or a police officer with grace and élan. From being the cutest onscreen chocolate boy to an intelligent actor — his metamorphosis has been amazing.”

Shah Rukh Khan
Deewana (1992)

In the ’90s, SRK wore his frumpy look and floppy hair with aplomb. His sex-appeal lay in his smile, his dimples and his eyes. He still has all that, and has now thrown in six-pack abs in the mix.

Link-ups off-screen and lip locks on screen have added that dangerous edge to his personality that makes girls go weak in the knees. He defined sexy with his role in Chak De as the hockey coach, got himself a cricket team and and played superhero on screen. An actor and a sports-man? Doesn’t get hotter than that.

Queenie Singh, jewellery designer, comments, “Shah Rukh today looks hotter than ever before and also more stylish. I have known him since his Delhi days when he used to shoot for a TV serial. He’s got a certain ‘X’ factor which he has kept right on top.”

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