Why some Bollywood stars are saying no to intimacy on screen
Hindi films have come a long way from the days of two flowers coming close or birds flying together to show on-screen intimacy.
As Bollywood is becoming more realistic, on-screen intimacy is also becoming more realistic. Since the time films like Jism and Murder hit the theatres, it had became clear that Indian films can also deal with sex and sexuality.
But while such scenes are shot in the studios, there are allegations by actresses of unprofessional attitude of directors and a lack of understanding of the comfort level that is needed with the crew for shooting such scenes.
Actress Chitrangada Singh, who rose to stardom with her stellar performances in Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi and Sorry Bhai, walked out of the film Babumoshai Bondukbaaz recently when she felt director Kushan Nandy was unnecessarily prolonging an intimate scene. Kushan apparently asked Chitrangada to keep lying on top of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the hero of the film, even after the scene was over.
In an interview to spotboyE.com, Chitrangada said: “I told him the scene has been shot. ‘Why are you doing like this? Please try to understand that I am wearing a petticoat.’ But, he was in no mood to listen and we ended up having a big, loud argument. And wait till you hear this! A few minutes later, he went and told Nawaz that we had shot the intimate scene very well. Can you beat that?”
Most Bollywood heroines don’t agree to do an intimate scene on screen because they are not sure whether the director would be able to shoot it with sensitivity.
I remember I was on the sets of Aparna Sen’s 15 Park Avenue where there was an intimate scene between on-screen husband and wife Rahul Bose and Shefali Shah. A day before the shoot of the scene, it was made very clear to all the crew members and members of the media that they were not expected to be on the sets. The only two people present in the room were the director and the cameraman. This kind of sensitivity is not a daily affair in Bollywood.
‘First experience traumatic’
Many heroines say they are expected to go ahead with intimate scenes in a room full of people. An actress on conditions of anonymity once told me that when she had signed the film, there was no kissing scene in the script but when she was halfway through shooting, she was told a kissing scene is imperative.
“I was later told that the scene was included on the behest of the hero. I was not in a position to say no because he was an established hero and I was starting my career,” the actress said.
“It was so difficult because the scene was shot in a room full of people and from morning I could feel that the scene was the topic of hushed whispers. Everyone was overflowing with curiosity about how the scene would turn out.
“Although kissing and physical intimacy is a part and parcel of human life, in India there is an overbearing, often perverted, interest in it. There is a kissing scene in almost every Hollywood film I am sure it’s much more cool there,” she said.
This same heroine said that when she became an established actress in Bollywood, she made it clear to her directors that she was not game for a kissing scene.
“My first experience was traumatic. But it wouldn’t have been so had the approach been a bit more professional,” she said.
Aishwarya Rai is another actress who has been in the news recently for refusing to kiss co-star Ranbir Kapoor in the film Ai Dil Hai Mushkil directed by Karan Johar. Apparently, Karan Johar had to handle it using photographic angles and giving an impression of intimacy.
Aishwarya’s kissing scene with Hrithik Roshan in the 2006 blockbuster Dhoom 2 was the talk of Bollywood, especially so because she had already married Abhishek Bachchan at the time of the film’s release. Since then, she has been following a no-kissing policy.
Although actors like Salman Khan, Fawad Khan and Tusshar Kapoor have never kissed on screen, heroines can only put their foot down when they find a footing in Bollywood or come from a powerful filmi family as in the case of Sonam Kapoor (daughter of actor Anil Kapoor) and Sonakshi Sinha (daughter of actor Shatrughan Sinha).
In fact, Sonam Kapoor got into a huge controversy over a kissing scene when she was being directed by Pankaj Kapoor in the film Mausam opposite his son Shahid Kapoor. Pankaj Kapoor apparently even called up Anil Kapoor to sort out the matter. Finally Sonam relented.
There were also rumors that Shahid had asked his father to incorporate the scene but Shahid himself is now following the no-kissing policy after he got married to Meera.
When heroines are not comfortable with nudity or intimate scenes, body doubles are used in Bollywood. The film Bandit Queen based on the real-life story of bandit Phoolan Devi had a nude scene where a body double had been used. Body doubles have been used for Priyanka Chopra in Saath Khoon Maaf and for Nandita Das in Fire.
Jessica Chowksi was used as Manisha Koirala’s body double in Ek Chhotisi Love Story way back in 2002. Manisha Koirala moved court saying she was not aware that director Shashilal Nair was filming intimate scenes with a body double. Jessica, in an interview to rediff.com, said Manisha had seen her on the sets and was aware of the presence of a body double. If Manisha was so concerned, she should have kept track of what was being shot with a body double.
Although a court cleared the film, Jessica said it created a lot of embarrassment for her because the contract had said that her name and face would not be revealed but that was eventually done. She had played the role of the double because she needed money for her mother’s cancer treatment.
Talking about her experience on the sets, she had said in the interview, “They treated me extremely well. Nobody misbehaved with me. But I felt odd and uncomfortable. I went through it because I had been assured that my face and name would not be revealed.”
Apparently, in Bollywood film contracts, there are nudity clauses and pregnancy clauses (women will have to compensate financially if they get pregnant during the shooting of the film). Apparently, some actors have said including a no-kissing clause should be a prerogative.
This shows that even if directors often feel kissing and sex scenes are just a part and parcel of the script, actors don’t feel that way and they have reservations in the way the scenes are shot or even later portrayed.
Till discrepancy in the thought process of the directors and producers on one hand and actors on the other hand is removed, the differences of opinion that erupted between Chitrangada and Kushan Nandy will continue to happen in Bollywood.
Amrita Mukherjee is a freelance journalist who writes on social issues in India with focus on women. She divides her time between Dubai and India and blogs at www.amritaspeaks.com
(Copyright 2016 Asia Times Holdings Limited, a duly registered Hong Kong company. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)