Sex and Bollywood

Publié le 18 Avril 2007

I have already slightly touched upon this question (see article “What I like about Bollywood”), but I would like to come back to it because it is in fact quite an important question, and I think I now have a somewhat different perspective. The other day, I read a comment by Yash Chopra who said:

« The secret to Bollywood's worldwide appeal, says Yash, is that its films are "wholesome"—his favorite word. The Indian government has given him four national awards in the category of "Best Film for Providing Popular and Wholesome Entertainment." He won't allow kissing in his movies. "If a boy loves a girl in ," he says, "they feel shy of kissing in public." In most Bollywood films, if two lovers want to thwart an arranged marriage, they can't just elope; they have to win over the disapproving parents. In Veer-Zaara, the hero and heroine never even touch each other, except in a fantasy song sequence. » (link) 

In fact, there is a lot of hypocrisy here, or at least a certain naivety. I've read somewhere (not very surprisingly) that “sex sells in Bollywood”, there’s no need to deny it and hide ourselves that the Hollywoodisation of Bollywood is on the go, especially on that score. It is true that we don’t have direct love scenes and that straight kissing is not (often) visible, but directors are responding to the public’s desire to see more. And if we can’t actually see the kissing and love-making that is hinted at, there is ample compensation in the shape of tight dresses, hot dancing, suggestive dialogue, etc. 

You’re going to tell me that a cinema whose first commodity is love is more or less obliged to pay attention to sex and to choose actors and actresses that are more alluring than not. I’d agree with that, and nobody in his right mind would refuse watching a beautiful person on screen. But I wonder whether the temptation to put the story to the service of those actors and actresses, rather than them to the service of the story, isn’t increasing. And whether the number of directors who resist that temptation is not dwindling. I have a strong feeling that all those young girls and boys that wish to get quick attention today will not have too many qualms showing what they have. And it doesn’t have to be Mallika Sherawat or Ayesha Takia. 



So all in all, should we say that Bollywood films are “wholesome”? Hardly, I think. There is a lot of strategy going on. If an actor isn’t young and pleasant, how many chances has he got to join the teams? If he isn’t attractive, he can try comic roles. But for women, there aren’t any other roles apart from those of lovers, or sex-symbols one way or another. Well, you can be a mother, or a grandma. But probably those who are mothers today have been prima donnas in their youth! Jaya, for example:
For women especially, I think the industry is hard. I mean let’s face it, beauty is everything. Take what people think about Aishwary Rai’s talents for instance. Either they will deny her any acting capability because it is too clear that you can’t have any if you’ve entered the job as a model, or they will concede she does (sometimes) have talent, but she is first a lucky girl. Looks are quintessential. So it isn’t surprising that all these young actresses play with their sex-appeal: it’s the golden door to any fame. 

I sound perhaps very negative all of a sudden. But that’s perhaps because I have based myself in my more enthusiastic comments on that fringe of films which try to resist the universal slope towards sexiness, or perhaps it’s because my eyes have opened on a reality which had eluded me so far. Still, all this doesn’t make me fear of being manipulated too much. I simply don’t watch films like Jism. And I still find those muscle-happy guys pathetic, those Hrithik Roshans and John Abrahams, who probably think the whole universe adores them. But on the other hand, I can’t help appreciating Kajol’s round figure and Rani’s curves. I squirm, but I am manipulated. A little. I criticise, but I admit that I’m part of the criticism! 

Okay, so where are we? Back at the beginning? Are Bollywood films more wholesome (healthier??) because we don’t see people in bed? Well, even if it makes me sound prudish, yes, in part, despite the sex strategy (and what I say above). My touchstone is that I wouldn’t appreciate watching the actresses I love to see smile and laugh, suddenly involved in sex in front of me. And that’s why Bollywood is closer to real life, perhaps. Intimacy is not public, precisely, whereas the cinema is. You can see beautiful men and women on the street, but you don’t see them having sex. Is it that simple? After all, perhaps it is! And in spite of all I have said on Bollywood’s rampant sexiness.

One last word: in her interview with Aish (sorry the link is now dead), Amrita Garewal suggests that Abhishek has that quality of not being “frivolous”… I wonder if it’s not more or less the same thing: not being frivolous would mean paying attention to your job, your responsibility as an actor, and not to your appearance, not to your seductiveness. A question of priorities, perhaps.


Rédigé par yves

Publié dans #Bollywood Talk

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Well, I suppose sex can be called "hot"... it can also be called other things too!