I believe the next significant name on my list is the one and only Kate Winslet.
Kate Winslet is the first Hollywood actress whose name I properly knew. I was seven years old when Titanic had released, and I had gone with my parents to watch it on the screen. I remember feeling distinctly sad after watching it, although I cannot recall how exactly I had processed the film at that age, and how much I had actually understood. Surprisingly (or maybe not, I dunno), whenever I thought about the film back then, I never remembered the famous nude sketching scene, or the subsequent lovemaking scene in the car. Maybe my mind had hidden it away out of sight because it could not make sense out of it, or maybe that theater had simply censored the scene – all these years after, I can never know for certain.
I do remember that I thought Rose was nice. But that was it. At seven, my receptors had not yet fully awakened to the signals of feminine appeal. I did not realize that the woman was beautiful – I knew it, of course, but I hadn’t felt it in my own gut – and I did not feel any sensual tug of attraction to her.
Rose was not the reason I had a crush on Kate. Perhaps it was the odd bits that did it. Features in the newspapers, photos in magazines. There was a factbook on Titanic (both the ship and the film) that I had bought soon after having watched the film. It had the story of how the film was made, along with colour photos of moments from the movie. Rose was there in those pictures. The book stayed as I grew older, and I began to see her with older eyes. By the time I was fourteen, I knew Kate Winslet to be one of the most beautiful women to have ever been seen in English films. I think it was the film The Holiday, starring Kate and Cameron Diaz, that made me fall in love with her smile.
For the record, my opinion has not changed. I will forever be annoyed that Peter Jackson did not cast Kate as an Elf in his LOTR films. Cate Blanchett is very regal and all, but how could she be the choice for the most beautiful person in Middle Earth? Why’d you always have to give any ‘powerful queen’ role to the same person? – If you asked me today whom I wanted as Galadriel, I’d probably offer a few more names, – Charlize Theron definitely among them. But Kate would probably still be the top pick.
A discussion of girls we had crushes on cannot possibly be complete if we don’t bring up anime. Back then anime wasn’t as big as it is now, but it was big enough. And the biggest anime show we had on TV? Dragonball Z. I had a crush on this one character from this show. Don’t ask why. Why do fourteen-year-olds have crushes on people?
Bulma was a brilliant scientific genius who was Goku’s friend and ally, playing her own role in the story in important ways. But this is not why I used to know her. She was a bombshell of a girl, and she had a flirty kind of a persona back then, in her early years. The resultant mix hit all the right buttons, and… let’s just say that Master Roshi wasn’t the only person goggling when a skimpily-clad Bulma was in sight.
It strikes me as slightly odd that I did not grow a fascination over Jessica Rabbit. Jessica Rabbit, in a way, is the most infamous of foxy ladies from our childhood. She was designed to turn heads and inspire fantasies, there’re no two ways about that. She had even acknowledged it herself when she said, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”
Do the names Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett ring a bell? You can be excused if they don’t. Liz and Marcia were vocalists in the once-dynamite disco group Boney M., which you might have heard of from older folks. Chances of stumbling across them on YouTube is relatively less because their music doesn’t seem to have aged that well. As chance had it, I happened to grow up listening to a couple of Boney M. albums, – the only English cassettes in my family’s musical demesne. Songs like Ma Baker, Plantation Boy, Brown Girl in the Ring and Sunny were thoroughly familiar, although if you asked me I wouldn’t be able to quote a single line with the right words – western accents were a barrier too high for us in that pre-subtitle, pre-Google age. The only song to which I actually knew the lyrics was Rivers of Babylon. I ended up singing that song at CP classes (‘CP’ stood for ‘Cultural Programme’, a twin-period at the end of every Saturday reserved for miscellaneous cultural performances by students from middle school) more than once.
Later, other songs rose to my favourites’ list – Boat on the River and Oceans of Fantasy being at the top, soon joined by Felicidad and My Friend Jack. All through this journey, one thing that had really grown on me were the voices of Liz Mitchell and Marcia Barrett. Boney M. was well-known for their lubricious album covers and their no-nonsense unabashedness about it. I remember reading in a book – when asked why they pose that way for their album-art, they had replied – ‘Well, people do buy them off the shelves that much faster.’ But how the crew looked did not matter in the least to me, in fact – I found them not at all attractive as far as looks go. But attraction is not just a matter of eye-candy. The voices of Liz and Mitchell – and I really don’t have a way to describe it any other way – were definitely a big crush I had over the years of my childhood.
I shall wind this one up with one of the greatest action-heroines of all time, – Sarah Connor. Let me try and explain this right. I did not have a ‘crush’ on Sarah in the strictest sense. I did not fall a little in love with her, I did not grow little iris-hearts when I saw her in the movies. But at the same time, I was totally taken by the amazingness of her character. I was taken by how wow she looked, I was bowled over by what a badass she was, and again – how wow she looked while being such a badass. I had watched T2: Judgement Day before having watched The Terminator. So the first time I saw Sarah, she was already the quintessential soldier we all know. And that was the version I was infatuated with. I saw her as she used to be earlier, when I watched The Terminator after few years, but that version – soft and pretty and vulnerable – always felt like the cocoon to me, not something quite fully realized. Maybe I was spoiled by watching the sequel out of order.
Recently I watched Terminator: Dark Fate. Those of you who have watched it, you know the film opens with a flashback to the last time we saw Sarah, black sunglasses on, the desert around her, thinking about the unknown future rolling towards her, thinking about facing the coming storm. As Linda Hamilton’s face came on the screen of my laptop, I almost smiled at the way I marvelled at how beautiful she looked, yet again after all these years.