So you've always wanted a smile like Madhuri Dixit's. And bone structure like Grace Kelly's. No worries. You don't need to be born with good looks; if you've got some extra cash to splash, a little nip here and a tuck there can easily help you look like the star of your dreams.
With almost every other Bollywood starlet going under the knife today, it's hardly any surprise that many ordinary women, and even men, are pumping serious money into beautifying themselves. There's no limit to what you can do. For a few lakhs, you can lose inches, lift brows, smooth wrinkles, contour jawlines, erase stretch marks, banish blemishes and much more - just take your pick at one of the upmarket beauty clinics and spas that have come up in the past few years.
A businesswoman in the garment industry, for example, chose, at the age of 75, a combination of botox, thermage wrinkle treatment and skin fillers to take years off her face at one go. The bill? A hefty Rs 2 lakh. Leading Bollywood stars fly to Delhi regularly for state-of-the-art dermatological procedures at Skin Alive Clinic, a medical spa started by dermatologist Dr Chiranjiv Chhabra.
A seven-day wellness programme at Ananda can cost between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 4 lakh per person
One of the most advanced treatments offered at the clinic is the Affirm Fractional Laser which aids skin rejuvenation, skin lifting, tightening and wrinkle reduction. It costs Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per session, and four to five sessions are recommended for best results. Another one-of-a-kind treatment is Cool Sculpting which freezes fat cells so you can lose up to three inches in a single setting. "Today, cosmetic procedures are non-invasive. A combination of energy-based devices along with filler injections can give great results," says Dr Chhabra.
She is one of many such specialists in the beauty business. Dr Rashmi Shetty, in Mumbai - who cited the 75-year-old's example - is another. She is known for her skill at fillers and a session with her at the Ra Skin and Aesthetic Clinic can set you back by anything from Rs 15,000 to Rs 1 lakh. Everything at her clinic from the plush fittings to the high-tech equipment spells opulence.
"If you are willing to spend, you can keep people guessing your age," says Dr Shetty, who is consulted by film and television celebrities as well as upwardly mobile young executives. "For long, we have trivialised beauty, equating it with vanity. Most of my patients approach me when they are at a turning point in their lives - marriage, new job, new college or even a relationship break."
Women aren't the only ones willing to fork out a fortune to look good. Men are also spending good money on cosmetic clinics, especially for a full head of hair. Dr Arvind Poswal, a hair transplant surgeon, has invented an advanced stitchless hair transplant technique that costs between Rs 6 lakh and Rs 8 lakh. "Patients who are not public figures are willing to make this investment as the confidence they regain is priceless," says Dr Poswal. "While five years ago, we used to do 15 hair transplants in our clinic per month, today it's 50."
Mangal Snan at Gwalior's Usha Kiran Palace
The beauty business is all about big bucks. According to a 2011 report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and PricewaterhouseCoopers, wellness is a Rs 49,000-crore industry in India, growing at 20 per cent a year. Increased awareness, lifting of trade barriers, Indian girls winning international pageants, and the mushrooming of beauty contests have influenced the way people perceive beauty, says Dr Jamuna Pai, cosmetic physician and founder of Mumbai's Blush Clinics. "It's no longer just about actresses and bridal makeovers.
Jaw contouring, high cheekbones, nose and lip jobs, widening of the eyes are the most sought after treatments by young college-going girls," she adds. But if you're looking for inner well-being in addition to physical beauty, head for a luxury spa such as Taj Hotels's Jiva Spa. Pamper yourself with one of its signature treatments like the Nawab-e-Khaas, which takes you back to the days of nobility. The luxurious foot wash and exfoliating body scrub uses a blend of almonds, rose petals, saffron and rich herbs.
Mumbai's Dr Jamuna Pai at work
Or you can go for the super-indulgent Mangal Snan at the Taj spa at Usha Kiran Palace in Gwalior. This award-winning treatment once undertaken by royalty before a coronation or wedding ceremony offers live music therapy followed by a saffron bath and exotic jasmine oil. The price of this luxury? About Rs 10,000.
In case the royal bath doesn't whet your appetite for luxury, head for Ananda in the Himalayas, a sprawling spa in a turn-of-the-century palace near Rishikesh. You can enjoy traditional Indian Ayurveda along with more contemporary Western spa treatment in the forest-ringed estate near the Ganges.
Exclusivity does not come cheap: a seven-day customised wellness programme can cost between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 4 lakh per person. "From wellness consultation to customised therapies to chefs creating a daily health menu … to personal yoga sessions, the whole approach at Ananda is that of a personal guide and mentor through each individual's wellness journey," says Gary Hall, Corporate Head of Spa Operations.
If Ananda is a bit far off, you could join some of Bollywood's A-listers at J.W. Marriott's Quan Spa in Mumbai. Its highly indulgent couple wedding treatment which includes a luxurious rose-and-milk bath costs about Rs 30,000. Those with a taste for the finer things in Delhi can enter the world of spiritual luxury at the Imperial Spa. The most exclusive treatment, the Kohinoor Retreat, is offered in the spacious Moghul Suite with its own steam, sauna, jacuzzi, salon area and indulgent day bed. For about Rs 15,000, you get a rose-petalled bath, oil massage, steam session and diamond dust exfoliation. "The wellness market is booming now more than ever before, as a lot of people travel with the sole focus on restorative relaxation," says Thomas Abraham, General Manager, Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa, Time cannot be stopped, obviously, but the lines on your face certainlycan - all you need is a lot of cash, and you can look and feel like a million bucks.
The writer is a freelancer based in Mumbai