A romantic setting in a park. The strapping actor and beautiful actress are about to kiss. You wait with bated breath, they move in closer... and the camera pans to two birds kissing. Sometimes it's flowers.
This is the way Bollywood kissed in the 70s. All things sexual were left, literally, to the birds and the bees. There'd been actual lip locks long before, but Bollywood seemed to be regressing. Then, suddenly, there was a kiss in the 90s. A real one. Blockbuster Raja Hindustani saw a minute-long kiss under a waterfall between two A-list actors. It seemed forced, but that could not rob it of the impact it made. It opened up a gateway for a host of on-screen kisses, sans the flora and fauna.
Today, Bollywood's on-screen kisses, though almost always hyped by the media, seem natural and effortless. The steamier scenes have until now, been left to B-grade sleaze film actors, while superstars have always indulged in love-making scenes that are shot neck-up, so as not to hurt the sentiments the Indian middle class family audience. That's precisely why Bollywood's June-July line-up is refreshingly surprising. The film industry's heartthrobs like John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Maradona Rebello will be going nude, not for titillation, but because the script demands it. Bollywood, it seems, is finally growing up.
Shortly after John Abraham sauntered out of the sea in 2008's Dostana, giving the audience a blink-and-miss peek at his derriere, the actor will go full monty in a chilling scene from his forth coming film, New York, that depicts racial profiling post the 9/11 attack. "I wasn't apprehensive at all. I was in fact excited to do it as I knew it will act as a clincher in the film. This is my favourite scene from the film," he told a tabloid.
Next, it was Neil Nitin Mukesh's turn, who dropped his pants for filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar's Jail. With both, director and actor claiming that the scene was beautifully shot, they are cognizant of the fact that it will shock the audience.
It's not just established actors who are baring all. Debutant Maradona Rebello has gone nude in his first film, Pankh starring one of Bollywood's hottest stars, Bipasha Basu. He spoke to Indipepal about it. "When director Sudipto Chattopadhyaya informed me about the nude scene, my first thought was to run in the opposite direction. But placing these scenes in the context of the film story that had a strong undercurrent of gender identity crisis, it all made sense. So, I dove in convinced, my apprehensions kept at bay, my gluteus maximus on display," he grinned.
He added that the director did everything to make him feel comfortable. "When I finally shot the nude scene with Lilette Dubey, who plays my mother, the crew was kept to a minimum. I had prepped myself for months for this one shot that eventually lasted barely a few minutes and was done in a single take. It was no big deal."
Except that it is. While skin may be in, it's still a big deal in Bollywood.
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