Being Sharmila Tagore

The first Bollywood actor to wear a bikini wasn’t trying to make a statement. That’s what makes her radical.

GettyImages-867463648 Sharmila
Sharmila Tagore during the ‘’Gata Rahe Mera Dil’' award event at Siri Fort Auditorium, on October 24, 2017 in New Delhi, India (Prabhas Roy/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Isha Banerjee


July 5, 2024


10 min

It was the summer of 1966. As India awoke, the August issue of entertainment magazine Filmfare waited at doors and graced newsstands. Jaws dropped as soon as readers saw the cover: a young woman sitting cross-legged with a defiant look. But the stunned reactions perhaps had more to do with the outfit she wore: a black-and-white bikini. 

Since French designer Louis Réard unveiled the bikini on July 5, 1946, it had filtered into wardrobes in the West but not India. Sharmila Tagore, the face on the Filmfare cover and the first-ever Bollywood actor to don a bikini, changed that. The gravity of the moment was perhaps lost on Tagore. To an observer, her choices are trailblazing. But, to the woman who made them, they were the ones that felt right.

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