Anybody with even a perforial understanding of Bollywood and has been following entertainment news in the past few days would have noticed the increase in discussion over pornography and erotica. While a lot of the media and netizens have expressed shock at the news of a flourishing app allegedly distributing pornography, it must be noted that Bollywood has always had a testy relationship with anything that is not considered ‘Indian culture’.
One of those things is on-screen nudity. When the posters for Kurbaan and Hate Story featured Kareena Kapoor Khan and Paoli Dam’s bare backs, it created quite a furor. And then, when Hate Story released and everyone witnessed the steamy scenes with Paoli Dam in the movie, it caused an even bigger controversy. But nudity in Bollywood cinema did not start in 2012.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about Indian films that actually went above and beyond when it came to nudity and intimacy. Some of these movies haven’t even seen the light of day thanks to the censor board. Take Sins for example. The Shiney Ahuja movie was based in a small coastal village of Kerala in Southern India where a priest has an affair with a young woman. Despite feeling terrible about it, he goes deeper and deeper into ‘sin’. The film featured frontal nudity and created outrage with the Catholic Secular Forum filing a public interest litigation to stall its release.
Then there was Gandu which was a Bengali movie directed by Qaushiq Mukherjee which had some serious nudity going on. The main actor, Anubrata Basu’s erect penis can be seen in the movie and there is even a scene where the lead character walks in on his mother having sex. In 2011, Paoli Dam created quite a controversy in India when a sex scene from her upcoming movie, Chatrak, was leaked online. The film featured Paoli Dam and Anubrata Basu having sex with Paoli receiving cunnilingus.
Those who are engrossed in Bollywood history have, no doubt, heard about Maya Memsaab. The film which can be viewed on Netflix featured a completely nude Shah Rukh Khan. What’s even more interesting is that the film was released in 1993. Imagine that.
If you’re wondering how a film like Maya Memsaab was even released in 1993, let’s talk about Ram Teri Ganga Maili. The 1985 film was Mandakini’s debut and featured her in two scenes where she is partially nude. In the movie, Mandakini’s character can be seen dancing in a river in a white saree which did nothing to hide her breasts. Simi Garewal of Rendezvous with Simi Garewal fame may have done partially nude in Mera Naam Joker but she went the full monty in Siddhartha. Then, of course, everyone in India is aware of the iconic movie, Satyam Shivam Sundaram. The film which featured Zeenat Aman and Shashi Kapoor showed Zeenat wearing next to nothing in multiple scenes. In one particular scene, she even flashed her side boob.
Actress Sherlyn Chopra is in the news nowadays because of her connection with the Raj Kundra pornography scandal. Not only was Sherlyn the first Indian woman to pose nude for Playboy magazine, but she also went nude for Rupesh Paul’s erotic drama film Kamasutra 3D in 2013. Actress Nandana Sen also flashed her breast in a scene for the celebrated movie, Rang Rasiya which is based on painter Raja Ravi Varma. The film also features a steamy sex scene between Nandana Sen and the lead actor, Randeep Hooda.
Ace actors like Kalki Koechlin and Radhika Apte have also gone nude in films. In the critically acclaimed Margarita With A Straw, Kalki went nude for her sex scene with actor William Moseley. Radhika Apte played a village belle in Ajay Devgn’s Parched where she went completely nude and even has a sex scene with actor Adil Hussain. “Nudity is right for the justified story, not for entertainment,” the actress said in an interview with Dainik Bhaskar. In Anurag Kashyap’s short film, Madly, Radhika went nude once again.
Then, of course, we have our leading men. Aamir Khan went famously nude for PK, Neil Nitin Mukesh dropped his clothes for Jail, Ranveer Singh flashed his butt for Befikre, Rajkummar Rao also went stark naked for Hansal Mehta’s Shahid, a film that won him a National Award. John Abraham flashed his bum in Dostana but went the full monty in New York. And everyone knows about the towel slip in Saawariya where Ranbir Kapoor almost flashed his bum.
Allegedly, these scenes would have been longer and showed more but the makers feared that the Censor Board would create issues. It just goes to show that the actors and actresses themselves don’t mind the nudity so much but it’s the public’s perception that makes them step away. Bollywood has been heavily trolled over the years and even more so since last year and it does appear that experiments with nudity will reduce if not completely cease, given the current climate.
“There have been scenes in Hindi films where there are lip-locking sequences or love-making sequences. They are done quite aesthetically. Things have been happening in our films and it’s not as conservative as people think,” journalist and stage actress Chirantana Bhatt had told the BBC in 2015.
Maybe she would like to amend her statement now.
[Header Image Credit: G Caffe]