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Why is kissing in Bollywood films such a big deal?

When the rest of the world is increasingly becoming comfortable with sexual content in films, why is Hindi cinema hung up on a harmless kiss?

Sushant Singh Rajput, who stars in Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, recently revealed how he was tricked into doing a kissing scene with co-star Swastika Mukherjee. During a media interaction, he said he was not informed about it until the last minute as the director wanted to get his natural reaction. Worried, Sushant called up girlfriend Ankita Lokhande and made sure that he told her about the liplock himself to avoid any controversy. “I did six more takes and then called Ankita to tell her that she does not need to worry as nothing of that sort has happened,” he was quoted as saying.

Sushant Singh Rajput recently talked about “mentally preparing” his girlfriend Ankita Lokhande before kissing Swastika Mukherjee in his upcoming whodunnit
Sushant Singh Rajput recently talked about “mentally preparing” his girlfriend Ankita Lokhande before kissing Swastika Mukherjee in his upcoming whodunnit

Sushant apparently found himself on a sticky wicket two years ago when it was reported that he had nearly 25 kissing scenes with Parineeti Chopra and Vaani Kapoor in Shuddh Desi Romance (2013). There were rumours that Ankita got upset when she learnt about it.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan received two legal notices for her liplock with Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2 (2006)
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan received two legal notices for her liplock with Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2 (2006)

Right now, a lot of hype has been created over Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma’s seven kisses in Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet. But with the Censor Board acting tough on ‘obscenity’ and ‘objectionable content’, will the scenes manage to make the cut? In this context, hitlist raises some pertinent questions: why are we acting coy over natural show of love? Why is kissing in Hindi cinema such a big deal?

Saqib Saleem (right) brushed lips with Randeep Hooda in Karan Johar’s segment in Bombay Talkies (2013) which was based on alternative sexuality
Saqib Saleem (right) brushed lips with Randeep Hooda in Karan Johar’s segment in Bombay Talkies (2013) which was based on alternative sexuality

Taboo no more
Saqib Saleem, who brushed lips with Randeep Hooda in Karan Johar’s Ajeeb Dastan Hai Ye segment in Bombay Talkies (2013), feels lip-to-lip is no longer considered a taboo. “Films are a reflection of society. If two people are in love, do you think they won’t kiss? When you tell a love story on screen, you have to make it look natural. It is a world filmmakers create to make the audience know that whatever’s happening is real,” says the young actor. The kiss between the two male actors was a first for mainstream Bollywood — and it was the script’s demand as that segment dealt with alternative sexuality.  

Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor apparently share seven kisses in Bombay Velvet
Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor apparently share seven kisses in Bombay Velvet

Legally forbidden
In spite of Bollywood’s insistence that society is becoming more receptive to the idea of intimacy on the big screen, liplocks never fail to generate buzz or raise the hackles of the moral brigade. When Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had to smooch Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2 (2006), she admittedly wasn’t comfortable with the idea and was in two minds about signing the film. When she went ahead and did it, there were rumours that the Bachchans did not approve of it and wanted to get it snipped from the film.

In spite of a minutelong smooch, Karisma Kapoor and Aamir Khan-starrer Raja Hindustani (1996) bagged a ‘U’ certificate
In spite of a minutelong smooch, Karisma Kapoor and Aamir Khan-starrer Raja Hindustani (1996) bagged a ‘U’ certificate

Ash also confessed in an interview that after the film released, she received a couple of legal notices asking why she chose to do such a scene when she was a role model for several girls in the country. And I was like wow, I am just an actor, doing my job, and here I am being asked to offer an explanation for a couple of seconds in a two, three-hour piece of cinema,” she had been quoted as saying.

Sushant Singh Rajput’s 25 kisses with Parineeti Chopra (in pic) and Vaani Kapoor in Shuddh Desi Romance (2013) apparently enraged his girlfriend Ankita Lokhande

Actress Tisca Chopra feels when a kiss is highlighted too much, it compels people to react. “But then society has evolved and is accepting such scenes if it is woven naturally into the storytelling,” she says.

Mallika Sherawat became famous for her 17 kisses with Himanshu Malik in Khwahish (2003)
Mallika Sherawat became famous for her 17 kisses with Himanshu Malik in Khwahish (2003)

Actor-producer Sanjay Kapoor also believes in the aesthetics of kissing. “If it is not too loud, liplock in films is absolutely alright. You have international programmes and music videos which show kissing on television. Why can’t Hindi movies do the same?” he argues.

To their advantage
Kissing has often proved to be a great marketing tool for films with actors and filmmakers stressing on it during their promotional campaigns. Mallika Sherawat, who had started her Bollywood career with small roles, was suddenly thrust into the limelight when she went around town talking about the 17 kisses she had shared with Himanshu Malik in Govind Menon’s Khwahish (2003). As a terminally ill 20-something girl, she played a hyperactive lover indulging in fiery passion, from a locker room quickie to a romp on the beach.

Sticking to her hard-earned image of a seductress and sex siren, the actress continued kissing her heroes in almost all her films and got attention for it too. Her recent kissing sequence with senior actor Om Puri in Dirty Politics apparently caused friction between the duo, but managed to work at the box office.

Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt, who has never shied away from infusing ‘bold’ content in his movies, says: “Nowadays, kissing scenes are used to market a film. It is not a big deal anymore and in the internet era, everyone has access to all kinds of content. For example, BBC’s documentary India’s Daughter has been banned here, but everyone has seen it online. Intimacy is something that everyone has seen on some platform or the other, but people just want make an issue out of it.”

Then and now
While the Censor Board has, of late, been critical of practically everything that adds masala to a film, Aamir Khan’s minute-long, wet kiss with Karisma Kapoor in Raja Hindustani (1996) surprisingly made the cut. In fact, director Dharmesh Darshan was expecting the scene to be toned down, but the film was cleared with a ‘U’ certificate!

Things would, perhaps, have been different if the current Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani was in command then. Why, it is highly unlikely that even Emraan Hashmi would have ever earned the ‘Bollywood serial kisser’ tag. “Calling me a good actor in the headline will not get you eyeballs, but calling me a good kisser certainly seems to work. Fortunately or unfortunately, in our country, kisses have that kind of value attached to them and it still amuses me. In fact, it has amused me right since I did Murder (2004). Go to a small town and ask about kissing, you will see how people turn red in their faces. I was the guy who kissed and didn’t really care two hoots about it,” says the actor.

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