|What kissing James Bond means to
By Siddharth Srivastava
NEW DELHI - Invoking feelings of
pride for the entire sub-continent, India's top actress,
Aishwarya Rai, has been approached to play the "Bond
girl" opposite Pierce Brosnan, a coveted role
filled by some of Hollywood's sexiest ladies - most
recently Academy Award winner Halle Berry.
the interviews that have followed the announcement, Rai
has been asked the same question time and time again -
will she kiss James Bond, as most Bond girls do, quite
willingly? Rai has been circumspect, knowing the Indian
media all too well. Even an unsuspecting remark could be
a headline: "Rai will kiss Brosnan", or "Rai prepared to
bond with Bond", or "Rai will go all the way".
Rai told the British press that she
has agreed to appear in the next James Bond film if its
producers agree to use a body double for the sex scenes,
noting that her strict upbringing meant there was no
of her doing anything saucy. "I've said I will do the
film if there is a body double. The producers have said
they will have to ask Pierce," she said. Pierce can't be
The focus here, though, has been on the
kiss, as most writers have ruled out sex. Indeed, a top
Bollywood actress kissing on the screen is as close to
going all the way as Indians are accustomed too - by
Bollywood standards. Handsome as Brosnan may be, Rai's
answers have been neutral, from, "I have not thought
about it," to "We will have to wait and see, I have made
no such commitments."
A kiss in this country is a
big deal. It has affected relations between India and
Pakistan, although at most times it takes much less. A
furor was created a couple of years back when prominent
author Khushwant Singh planted a party peck on the
daughter of the then Pakistani high commissioner Ashraf
Jehangir Qazi. Tenuous India-Pakistan relations took a
further tumble. Qazi scurried off to Islamabad to kiss
the feet of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, explaining
that the whole of Pakistan need not be outraged.
Worldwide, of course, a kiss always makes news that
is given prominent coverage in India. Former US
president Bill Clinton went as far as regularly kissing
his wife Hillary on the forehead. Didn't feel the need
to go any further. Tennis great Andre Agassi likes to
plant sweaty lingering kisses on his wife, Steffi Graf,
between shots and games. She doesn't seem to mind. Not
too long ago Agassi did it to Brooke Shields, who also
did not seem to mind. Continuing with the tennis world,
the Williams sisters are regularly planted a kiss by
their father in appreciation of the good work they are
putting in. In the runaway hit Pretty Woman,
Julia Roberts' most "personal kiss" happened to be on the
mouth, although she uses it on every other part of
Richard Gere's anatomy.
Indian girls have
routinely been in the news for "kissing indiscretions"
that have not gone down too well with the population.
Young, over-eager and beautiful actress Padmini
Kolhapuri went "all the way" with Prince Charles. His
royal highness was in the news again shortly after in
India for the "not-so-eager kiss" by the late Princess
Diana that sent the tabloids into a tizzy. Also worth
noting was actress Shabana Azmi, who planted a "freedom
kiss" on South Africa's Nelson Mandela, which caused a
lot of heartburn in the country.
We are a
liberal country, not in the mold of Pakistan, but can be
just as prudish when our women kiss - or are kissed - by
men who don't belong here. The only instances of public
kissing here involve foreigners. There is always a
crowd of hangers-on who accumulate for a closeup of the
action, which can happen on a street or a market place.
The big question, however, remains: with Internet porn,
explicit pictures and video just a click away, why,
then, is kissing such an issue in the land of Kama Sutra
There have been several
explanations to this phenomenon.
is the stereotype of the Hindi movies, the most
popular mass culture phenomenon apart from cricket. (There
is little scope for kissing in cricket, as only men play it,
and mostly just men watch it.) In the Hindi movies the
kiss is a really big happening, if it happens at all.
Hindi songs are not only about running around trees, but
also gyrations that approximate making love with clothes
on and from a distance. But when it comes to a real
kiss, the world shakes and the heavens come down.
A recent example that attracted attention was
the "rain kiss" in the movie Raja Hindustani in
which the two top stars, Karishma Kapoor and Aamir Khan,
kiss each other. The clouds thundered, lightening struck
and the rain grew heavier as the lips touched. The
common explanation by producers and directors as well as
the censor board is that Hindi movies are family
outings; so kissing is a no-no. But the most brutal
violence on screen escapes any cuts.
crossover movies aimed at non-resident Indians and
English-speaking urban audiences are bolder. One has the
pleasure of watching the absolutely ravishing Lisa Ray
kissing in Bollywood Hollywood. There were a
number of full-throated scenes with Rahul Khanna, well
shot with Lisa putting up a sterling performance. Then
there was the movie called Khwaish that was
released a few months ago. It stars two newcomers who
are being actively sought due to the 17 kissing scenes
in the movie.
Recent surveys have indicated that
promiscuity as well as frequency of sex among Indians is
on the rise. Yet it is not as if smooching happens in
public places here.
Another reason for the coy
approach is the laws that prosecute for public obscenity
- including kissing. Indian cops, generally a lethargic
lot, are eagle-eyed about couples on the loose in
gardens, parks, cars or on any corner. It's the easiest
One more explanation, far-fetched
though, is the weather. It is hot most of the time,
requiring air-conditioning for kissing in the open.
This writer, however, attributes it to
kismet - bad karma in the past - that has
resulted in kisses being such misses in this great
is a New Delhi-based journalist
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