Even while making Delhi Belly, we knew that it would create a lot of ripples. Either it would break taboos, or become one itself," laughs director Abhinay Deo, grateful that the film managed to do the former in 2011.
True to its tagline 'Sh*t Happens', this no-interval, bilingual release dished out toilet humour and flatulence jokes by the minute, sending audiences into fits of laughter. Besides the three strugglers -- Imran Khan, Vir Das and Kunaal Roy Kapoor -- sh*t assumed enough importance to become the fourth character in this irreverent comedy.
In the league of Hollywood productions like American Pie, an unembarrassed Delhi Belly defied conventional norms about the liberal use of scatological humour and potty jokes in a hit film. Deo, who admits he wanted to make a no-holds-barred film says, "Our industry can be quite hypocritical. We do things off-screen but when it comes to movies we soften the edges. If you are indulging in toilet humour, why should you hold back?"
Referencing the scene in which the villain spills out faeces on a silk cloth from a box that is supposed to contain diamonds, he explains, "Normally that scene would have stopped at the expressions before the sh*t came out of the box. But I wanted to show it the way it would happen in real life. That ended up becoming an iconic scene where people said, 'Oh my god, they have actually shown it.'"
Not to mention the wildly popular Bhaag DK Bose, a cleverly packaged double entendre anthem, that had the audience splitting its sides. Deo credits producer Aamir Khan. "Before Aamir, most of the industry had gone through the script and turned it down. Honestly, the acceptance of Delhi Belly by the audience is a milestone in our industry. It is a sign which says that people were ready for this; we were just not giving it to them."
In Milan Luthria's The Dirty Picture, one of 2011's most-talked-about films, A-list heroine Vidya Balan, playing Silk, imitates the orgasmic sounds of her loud, in-the-act neighbours with abandon. She later repeats it to bring realism in a sensuous scene, to raucous applause, while simultaneously shattering several taboos hitherto associated with the Hindi film heroine.
Throughout the film, Balan, as Silk, flaunts her ample curves, happily uses her sexuality to further her career, woos and has a torrid affair with a leading star (played by Naseeruddin Shah), and later indulges in a relationships with his blood brother. Unlike olden times, however, in 2011, Silk's brazen dialogues (sample this: 'Holi khelne ka shaukh to bahut hai par teri pichkari me dum nahin'), and unapologetic expression does not earn her the label of a vamp. Instead, Silk is portrayed as and ends up being an object of sympathy.
In the size-zero age of surfboard abs, the actress unabashedly flaunts a roll of tummy flab. Balan's rationale is clear, "Some people might think my character is shameless, but I don't think so. She is a girl who wants to make the most out of each moment and each opportunity. She is not cheap. She is just having fun in life. Today, women have become open about their sexuality and they can choose whom to be with. That is feminism, freedom and liberation."
"The Dirty Picture was made by women -- my mother and I," points out Ekta Kapoor, the producer. "We did not want boldness to become crassness." Indeed, Balan has proven that true boldness isn't just in skin show but in attitude. Bikini-clad heroines who have for long presented themselves as eternally coy will now have to contend with this new standard.
3. Heroes can't play male escorts
Broken in: 'Desi Boyz'
Female prostitution has been a popular theme in Indian cinema from time immemorial, from Bimal Roy's Devdas (1955) and Muzafar Ali's Umrao Jaan (1981) to Pradeep Sarkar's Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (2007).
But in 2011, Hindi films have moved on. When director Rohit Dhawan dared to portray two major mainstream heroes -- Akshay Kumar and John Abraham -- as male escorts in Desi Boyz, he made heroes strip for cash, and drop the cloak of 'respectability'.
Dhawan may have treated the subject lightly, but the statement he made with his big-budget film's entry into forbidden territory is anything but. In a refreshing change of course, the film also subjects the male body to objectification --Abraham and Kumar's abs were exposed with as much panache as the cleavage we so frequently see cameras focused on in a Katrina Kaif or a Malaika Arora Khan item song.
The best part? The heroes were game for these roles. Kumar says, "Films are made on prostitution, so why should there be a problem making a film based on male escorts? We fulfil the fantasies of women in this film. We are playing men women fantasise about -- air force officers, pilots, doctors, etc. This happens everywhere." Abraham agrees, "There is nothing wrong with the profession. Indian cinema has opened up to subjects like these."
Foul lyrics don't make a hit song
Broken in: 'Dum Maaro Dum'
For a pot-smoking renegade, Zeenat Aman's character in 1971 hit Hare Rama Hare Krishna mouthed some pretty vanilla dialogues. Surrounded by hippies, she lamented tamely, 'Duniya ne hum ko diya kya, duniya se hum ne liya kya, hum sab ki parvaa kare kyon, sab ne hamara kiya kya?'
Circa 2011: A throaty Anushka Manchanda belts out, courtesy Jaideep Sahni's lyrics, 'Oonche se uncha banda, potty pe baithe nanga.' Featuring Deepika Padukone, the revamped version of Dum maaro dum, called Mit jaaye gum, was anything but vanilla. And it worked, despite being in-your-face.
When Hindi film songs tried to be bold before, they were largely suggestive, cleverly couching the innuendo. Mit jaaye gum, however, shocked purists with its audacious, but thought-provoking lines. Aman herself was reportedly aghast after hearing the number.
The plucky Manchanda, however, defends the song. "You can love or hate these lyrics, but you cannot ignore them. They are raw and edgy; exactly what the song needed."
Sex and death don't make good bedfellows
Broken in: 'Not A Love Story'
A dead body lying in a pool of blood, just metres away from a couple making intense love -- this act found an explicit showcase in Ram Gopal Varma's Not A Love Story.
The film, inspired by the Neeraj Grover murder case, was meant to shock, and it does. Anusha Chawla (Mahie Gill), a struggling actress is a witness to the murder of her director (Ajay Gehi) by her possessive boyfriend Robin (Deepak Dobriyal). The protagonist, Robin, feels no remorse as he chops up the director's body with huge knives. The sound of chopping bones is enough to terrify anyone; and the shock value escalates when an effort to calm Anusha down results in an intimate moment between the two. Here, RGV concocts a heady mix of death and sex -- a cocktail that filmmakers have refrained from experimenting with in Hindi cinema. Varma explains, "To kill a man in an ordinary apartment where thousands of normal people live, then to have sex in front of the dead body, cut it into pieces and to dispose it in shopping bags is horrifying. I wanted to explore the mental state that triggered off this act."
Heroines can't be murderous (and get away with it)
Broken in: 'Saat Khoon Maaf'
In a country where marriage is considered a sacred institution, an A-list heroine playing femme fatale and hacking her hapless husbands has to be applauded. Even more so, when the husbands in question are seven, which breaks yet another taboo.
Susanna, Priyanka Chopra goes on a vengeful killing spree, slaughtering all seven husbands -- played by the likes of Neil Nitin Mukesh and Naseeruddin Shah -- in Vishal Bhardwaj's 7 Khoon Maaf, based on Ruskin Bond's short story, Susanna's Seven Husbands. Amazingly, in her murderous journey from 21 to 65, Sussana evades all earthly laws, and seems to escape her sins at the end of the film. That is a big departure from the moralistic norm, where female villainous characters -- like Kajol in Gupt (1997) or Nanda in Ittefaq (1969) for example -- had succumbed to fitting punishments.
Big banners don't back dare-bare-scares
Broken in: 'Ragini MMS'
Ekta Kapoor is a study in contradictions. While her TV soap operas tow oh-so-conventional lines, Kapoor loves to walk the unbeaten path in her films. While 2010's Love Sex Aur Dhokha showcased honour killings, an MMS sex scandal and sting operations, this year, she took a step further with The Dirty Picture and even concocted a new genre with Ragini MMS.
Starring newbies Rajkumar Yadav and Kainaz Motivala, the one-and-a-half-hour-long film had the risk of being judged as a sleaze-fest. But Kapoor's Balaji Productions took it on and turned the tide -- something not many big-ticket producers have attempted in the past. Kapoor proclaims proudly, "Ragini MMS was a horror-date movie." The tagline: 'They didn't know it yet ... It was a threesome.' -- makes that clear. The leading lady of the film, Motivala adds with conviction, "Ragini MMS has paved a way for a lot of young filmmakers to have the guts to even think of something unconventional and have the courage to write such stories."
Good girls? Says who?
>> As a gutsy journalist in No One Killed Jessica, Rani Mukerji mouthed expletives aplenty in this drama based on the Jessica Lal murder case. In fact, her brash attitude found eloquent expression in the song, 'Aali re, saali re, milegi toh dilwali lekin muh khole toh gaali re.' She smiles, "I am comfortable, which is why I did it onscreen. It just came very naturally to me." Just like she casually flipped her middle finger too. She retorts, "We use such language in everyday conversations."
>> Katrina Kaif too sheds her coy avatar in Chikni Chameli and gestures that she has drunk a peg or two ('pahua chadha ke aayi'). Earlier this year, Kaif donned a bindaas image in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, in which she puffed away at a beedi.
>> Sonam Kapoor too, ditches her good girl image for Abbas-Mustan's upcoming heist thriller Players. The actress has surprised everyone by flippantly whipping out her middle finger in the trailers. The outspoken actress argues, "Are you telling me you don't use 'f**k' in your language?"