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We can all remember the days when even a little bit of affection made us awkward while watching Bollywood movies with our parents, but now I am repulsed towards watching ANY Bollywood with my parents altogether.  If you remember Isfahan’s post about Dhobi Ghat, which I would say was not too vulgar of a film, just trying to explain a one night stand did not seem too fun without hitting the prostitution realm.

This post both celebrates and pokes some fun at Bollywood’s depiction of sexuality and lovin’, from the taboos to the surpassing of taboos to well, learning how to at least kiss. There are many films that would make the cut for this post, but I present what comes to mind for me and from what I have seen.  I am going by a not-so-specific era scheme, and giving them some fun quirky names.  Enjoy!

1.) The “When our Parents were Children Era”, 1960s – Mid 1970s

Let’s begin with Mughal-e-Azam.

This is the classic 1960 love story between Mughal Prince Salim and  Anarkali.  The epitome of Urdu language celebration and of Mughal history.  Of course, it is a totally forbidden romance (what good is a film if parents and society allows it?).  Still, Anarkali surely wasn’t some common street prostitute (in Hindi: randi), but even with the advantages and status she had with being a “tawaaif” (courtesan) she was definitely not suitable for such a prince.

I have to ask myself, though, when watching this movie in the 1960s, as our parents were enamored with the song “Jab Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya”, where she draws Salim in with her radiance, did they ever wonder what went on behind closed doors between the prince and Anarkali?  I mean, come on.  I get Anarkali was pretty exclusively available to just the prince, but we all knew they could never marry.  He had to marry someone of his status.  It was almost a public shout of: marriage is not about love or sex.  Love is not reserved for a wife, but your treasured courtesan whom you could never be with, but don’t “owe” anything to.

I guess that is the sensibility that appeals to the elders who love this film.  It is not blatantly raunchy.  We know Salim and Anarkali were having some good times after she finished her lovely song and dance, and maybe elders knew that too.  They just seemed to like the chase of it all.  They knew what would probably happen thereafter, they just did not want it showing in their face, or did they?  Who knows.   I suppose we’ll hold onto the “purity” of this film in its charms and its tragedy, and of course its purity of Urdu (as my great uncle would say in his attempts to un-Anglify my Urdu).

I mean… still, look at that feather tease, Anarkali.  You have the art of love down!

2.) The “When our Parents First Got Married/Before We were Accidently Conceived” Era, Late 1970s to Late 1980s

We now go to the Amitabh Bachchan’s love triangle film with Rekha and Jaya Bachchan: Silsila.

The story of Silsila to cut it short was: Man loves woman (Amitabh to Rekha).  Woman loves man (vice versa).  Man has brother (Shashi Kapoor).  Man’s brother is in love with a woman (Jaya).  Man’s brother dies in a plane crash.  Man’s brother’s woman is knocked up (Jaya again).  Man feels obligated to marry her and take care of his brother’s child.  So he marries her, but the child is lost, and nothing ties man to his brother’s woman anymore.  Man wants to rekindle with the woman he actually loves (Rekha).  Man is in the process of rekindling, but his now wife (Jaya) knows she’ll somehow get him in the end (and I guess she should, right?  She is his real life wife).  I will not ruin the ending and everything else because that would be no fun.

I watched this movie as an adult, and man, the way out-of-wedlock pregnancy was dealt with in this movie was quite, well, different.  It was dealt with a mix of brotherly duty and a mix of scandal.

Yet, even with the “duty”, how does a man resist Rekha?  REKHA?  Come on.

I suppose, however, the biggest scandal behind the movie was the scandal in Amitabh’s real life of an affair with Rekha while being married to Jaya.  Though I admit, it is strange how this movie was made after news of that affair broke out.  Dang Jaya, you were strong despite your husband’s shortcomings.  Still, Rekha has the timeless reputation of being a sex symbol, and for that her fans were forgiving of her and loved her nonetheless.

3.) The “VHS-Style Fast Forward Era”, The 90s and Maybe Early 2000s

For this era, we turn to the film Mohra, made in 1994.  Remember the tacky  bride-looking outfit Raveena Tandon wore in “Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast” and the crazy do-rag on Akshay’s head?   That song was so popular that it still gets all of us up and ready to dance to this day.

However, there is a song in the film called “Tip Tip Barsa Paani” (not sure how to translate this into English, but basically it connotes rain falling).  It is a song that is not always remembered by those of us who watched this film.  Why?  Because our parents fast forwarded it (at least mine did).  Anybody remember the crazy lines that would come over the screen and the sound the videotape would make while fast forwarding?  To hear that again, would probably trigger those childhood moments.  Even catching a glimpse of the scene was pure “gunnah” (the Urdu word for forbidden), but we were definitely allowed to watch the action fighting scenes.  I guess violence was the better alternative over sex.  So here is the video.

Oh, the titillating images of Raveena wearing not a black, not a red, not a dark, not even a white, but a YELLOW sari.  And in the rain.  So, a sexy RAIN DANCE in a bright see through color (hence, steering away from the traditional “wet t-shirt” contest-esque feel).  Perfect.

And the best of it.  Raveena is the one starting the fun.  No, no.  She is not shy, and she is going dance across all fences, and poles.  She will use her hips,waist, chest, eyes, and all else in such ways that can only eventually make Akshay want to join in on the fun and sing with her (he just doesn’t in the beginning because he’s too speechless).  He just has to join in.  How can he not?  It’s seduction to the core!

The best part:  not one piece of clothing taken off.  It’s a pretty genius tease, I must say so myself.  She actually is not too vulgar at all.  The camera actually does more of the seduction work for her by zooming in towards “the girls” A LOT and by doing  close-ups of body touching and just touching in general.  You know, I would not be too surprised how many Desi parents probably watched this in private after the children were in bed.

Scratch that.  I DO NOT want to imagine that.

5.) The “Whoa! and Is That Kissing or Eating?” Era, Some Early 2000s to 2008

Although I have only been mentioning one film per era, in this one it is necessary to mention two.

So let’s cut to the chase of the second part of the title.  Who am I referring to?  Some of you know it.  Yes, Imran Hashmi’s kissing.  The infamous HORRIBLE kisser.  I discovered this when watching the video of a song I heard while I was visiting Pakistan in 2005, called “Agar Tum Mil Jao” from Zeher.  It just pops up right at the beginning of the song and is so “in your face”!  Nevertheless, the song is nice in a very cheesy, mushy type of way.

So after that repulsing few seconds of watching Imran Hashmi pretty much bite the poor girl as if withdrawing blood for his vampire fix, I thought, I hope Desi men really do not think that is kissing.  I mean affection in public is already taboo in India, but at least let those who want to express affection in private have a better reference point!  More importantly, what were the directors thinking?  Sounds worse than a low-budget porn film.   As a disclaimer, this is not the only time Imran Hashmi has pulled off  gross kissing.  I am sure youtube searching will bring up more of it.

Back to the first part of the title.  My whoa refers to  Jism (in English: “Body”), starring Bipasha Basu and Jon Abraham.  I admit it was quite a steamy, eye  candy movie, especially because it had, well, only two of the sexiest people in India starring in it together!

However, there was one line in the film that stood out (and to Funny Indian Lady, our delightful Mumbaian writer).  When Jon Abraham is startled to hear that Bipasha does not love him towards the end, she replies:  “Yeh jism pyaar nahin jaanta.  Sirf bhook.”  This literally translates to: “This body doesn’t understand love.  Only hunger.”  Okay, at least that’s how I would know how to translate it if I did not know that “bhook” could somehow also be lust, but the context gave that away.

My reaction: Wow.  I do not think I have heard lust so blatantly described in a Bollywood film.  I could list many in this era that just had “WTF?” sex scenes in them, but the lust in this film brought on another dimension of sexuality to Bollywood.  Usually sexuality tends to be intertwined with love, and if there is any lust, it tends to be from a male perspective.  It was quite (dare I say it?) revolutionary to show from a female perspective.  I will not comment on whether this is good or bad, but it does reflect a major change in Bollywood’s portrayal of love and sexuality.

In the end, I highly doubt I could ever watch Jism with my parents, ever.  We would miss the entire film with the amount of fast forwarding.

6.) The “Sexual Refinement” Era, 2008 – Present

Funny Indian Lady introduced me to a film named Band Bhaja Bharaat.  And she told me there is a sex scene, but that I would be pleasantly surprised at how not-lame it is.  Along with watching the film and laughing at how over the top some parts of the story was about this wedding planner duo, the “love-making” scene between Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma stood out in a not-so-awkward way like it has in some of the early and mid 2000s sexual attempts in Bollywood.  Of course, this does not mean fast forwarding of this scene would not happen at my parents’ house.  And no, Imran Hashmi, no eating was involved.  Just simple, soft kissing that maintains the sweet mood of the moment.

They really do have a nice on-screen chemistry.  And frankly, I think I  have a couple crush on them!  It was not even raunchy or over the top.  Very simple.  The movie was quite light-hearted and very silly with the Delhi style slang, but as most people new to Bollywood say, “Oh, I loved all of the colors!”

Conclusion

It is too simplistic to say that Bollywood like all other film industries just opened its arms to portraying sexuality more openly.  Despite what people may assume, audiences in India have become way more sophisticated with readily available Hollywood films.  To an extent, they know what a high quality film looks like.  It is no longer an era where poorly filmed love and sex scenes can cut it anymore.  Of course, there are a lot of cultural sensitivities that directors remain aware of, but as we commonly hear, India has grown fast.  This growth is evident in Bollywood’s efforts to still maintain its fun, lively personality, while trying new elements of love and sexuality where they are suitable.  No longer is Bollywood only based upon one “common” audience, especially with the rise in education and the growth of the middle class.  Movies can afford to appeal to only certain crowds, while not appealing to the masses.

Nonetheless, with all of the sophistication and sexual evolution in Bollywood, I doubt it will ever lose the heart of its flavor: song, dance – and of course – colors.

Disclaimer:  That last picture is not really sexual in nature, however, if I really wanted to overanalyze it, I would say it is Aishwariya’s “Technically-available-for-marriage-dance”.  You would have to watch Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam to understand, but a gentleman in the crowd sees her dance at an event and immediately falls in love(?) with her and asks for her hand in marriage from her parents.

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