Sex & Cinema
By Vinod Mirani
Sex in films? No, that was taboo. Films meant family entertainment, the word was never even mentioned in the same breath with films. Sex was purely a bedroom thing, not discussed openly and, hence, never in films. Then there was the omnipresent Censorship. For a long time, for the censors, even kissing on screen was a no-no, not to mention sex.
Kissing was fine in our films till India gained Independence, following which the Cinematograph Act was enacted in 1952, which, in turn, gave birth to censorship, which was meant to regulate the public exhibition of films. To depict a kiss, various suggestive alternatives were devised by the filmmakers.
How did a kissing scene reach the viewer? Well, it was when two flowers — roses — swung in the wind and touched each other, or two birds coochie-cooing with beaks touching, or a hero or heroine emerging from behind a tree pursing or wiping his/her lips! This was the closest a film came to suggesting intimacy, no sex. It was an era when a couple hugged on screen, the heroine covered her bust with her arms!
Kissing was as much a part of Hindi films as it was in Hollywood. Films like “Karma” (1933) had elaborate kissing scenes. Then, the kiss staged a comeback with Raj Kapoor’s “Bobby” in (1973). Ironically, there were some films made abroad with Indian artistes where kissing was found to be okay for the Hindi audience! Then, how come the same Hindi filmstars could not kiss in a Hindi film made in India? But, the Censor Board in India is never known for its logic or objectivity!
Malayalam films would get a Censor Certificate easily as the rule said that a film once censored could not be censored again for its visuals. Cuts could be effected only if the dialogue carried a different meaning from the original version. These films had a captive audience. And, the dialogue really mattered the least. So metros like Mumbai had cinemas in red-light areas of South Mumbai and suburbs like Andheri, Jogeshwari and so on where these films found ready takers, especially for night shows.
But the enterprising distributors of such dubbed films went a step further when the films were booked for cinemas in the hinterland. The distributors indulged in interpolation and added clips from real porn films in such a dubbed Malayalam film.
The result: They drew full houses.
There have been illogical and impractical rulings by the censor board where even foreign films have been asked to cut down on a kissing scene. A kiss is a kiss, how do things change if the footage is reduced? But in India, moral policing is second nature when it comes to others, especially if one occupies a seat of authority. The restriction on the duration of a kissing scene was flouted by breaking a kissing scene for a moment with some other shot and the kiss continued!
Finally, sex as in sexual activities that made it to our films was suggestive or implied, rather than explicit. Take the film “Razia Sultan” (1983) for example. The film indicates all along that the attraction between two women protagonists is rather unconventional.
A film in a case can be “Fire” (1996), starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, where it was depicted without reservations. Since then, we have had “Dostana” (2008), where John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan pretend to be lovers. This was followed by “Aligarh” (2015), a hardcore same-sex movie based on a real-life story, “Margarita With A Straw” (2014), “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga” (2019) and the latest, “Subh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan”, which released just a week ago. “Kapoor & Sons” (2016) also had a track about a gay relationship. Among films to come on the lesbian theme is “Sheer Qorma”.
How different can films on same-sex love be from each other and justify a feature-film length duration? The one film that tried to be different and sort of created a sensation was “Veere Di Wedding”, where one of the female actors is shown masturbating.
The same-sex formula seems to have failed at the box office since the only success so far has been “Dostana”, which was not really about same-sex romance and was, actually, a comedy. (IANS)
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