Throwback Thursday: Bollywood Relationship With Kissing Scenes And Intimacy Has Been Rocky And Sometimes, Downright Sleazy
As a kid growing up in the 90s, I was never exposed to kissing scenes because my parents’ parents didn’t let them witness it either. I mean, sure kissing scenes were meant for adults but I have stumbled across a sex scene on an English TV channel as a kid and I can’t deny that I was scared. Till some point, I thought that the actors aren’t actually kissing because how can they go around lip-locking with just anyone? Of course, it was a big deal for me; so much that I had a no-smooching condition before the teenager I said yes to my first boyfriend. That condition flew out the window very soon because of raging hormones and love but I tried.
However, my point is, cinema plays a crucial role in asserting or altering social attitudes. Today, we’ve consumed so much global content that kissing, even in public or social media is not seen as taboo – at least not in the societies that are modernised. We see intimacy, nudity, and all of that, thanks to OTT platforms and it is all okay. We are adults and we are not losing our mind looking at two people kiss. In fact, we’d been there, done that so why shy away? It’s all art.
Millennials And Growing Up In A Kiss-Taboo Era
Today, Bollywood has a substantial amount of kissing scenes. They are still making headlines and that’s hilarious. However, in the 90s, all I remember is Aamir Khan and Karisma Kapoor’s infamous lip-lock scene in Raja Hindustani which almost tainted the latter’s clean image and even caused a stir in the Kapoor khandaan. I bet there are more intimate scenes but we barely remember any and usually, these are performed by the same handful of actors.
As I went through the kissing scenes of the 90s, I realised Emraan Hashmi wasn’t the first serial kisser. He was preceded by Aamir Khan, who by the way also showed the world how an upside kiss is done. Well, it was in Qayamat Se Qayamant Tak in which Juhi Chawla kissed him upside down. Yup, it wasn’t Spiderman, it was our local man, Aamir Khan. He has also kissed Pooja Bedi in Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander and Madhuri Dixit in Dil.
Juhi Chawla too was one such actress who didn’t care too much about societal norms and taboos in her acting career. Her kissing scene in the movie Aina with Jackie Shroff was steamy and sensual. Well, she has kissed Aamir Khan several times in her career – Hum Hain Raahi Pyaar Ke and Ishq apart from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.
However, these were rare in the 90s as compared to the 2000s and the present times. With Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan refusing to kiss on screen, Aamir Khan took on the responsibility to keep the bisous going in Hindi cinema.
But did you know Indian cinema was quite bold and liberal earlier?
Indian cinema wasn’t always drenched in conservatism. In fact, you’ll be surprised to the first known kiss happened in 1921! Bilat Ferat, a Bengali silent film directed by Dhirendra Nath Gunguli exhibited several intimate scenes and not using symbolism. These were real and raw. In 1922, Pati Shakti featuring Lalita Pawar included a lip-kiss in the film. In 1929, A Throw Of Dice had lead actors Seeta Devi and Charu Roy kissing. While it is widely believed that Karma was the first movie that showed actors kiss on-screen, it wasn’t. Karma is also famous for having the longest kiss (4 mins!) but I don’t know how to count a woman kissing a near-dead man back to life as a legit kiss. It was more like CPR! But there was at least one other kissing scene in the film, a real one.
Women of that era weren’t shy of intimacy and sensuality on-screen. So what happened? Like always, the Censor Board happened. In 1952, they made the Cinematography Act that banned kissing and intimate scenes from films deeming them “indecent”. After the British left, they wanted movies to represent the Indian culture, which to date shies from the physical display of affection so…
Symbolism Replaced Real Intimacy…Yikes!
Thus, started the trend of using dandelions, sunflowers, and just any plant to show tongue-tennis or coitus. In the 50s and 60s, the actors would run around the trees to show something is about to happen. In Roop Tera Mastana song from Aaradhana (1969), the camera pans out to a lit fireplace, to show passion brewing between the couple. Most filmmakers adapted such kind of symbolism to show intimacy between lead couples.
But then came hope in the 70s and 80s
It was then that the Khosla Committee was formed to review the need for intimacy in cinema. They said, “If, in telling the story it is logical, relevant or necessary to depict a passionate kiss or a nude human figure, there should be no question of excluding the shot, provided the theme is handled with delicacy and feeling, aiming at aesthetic expression and avoiding all suggestion of prurience or lasciviousness.”
That created opportunities for showing intimacy in movies again and Raj Kapoor made sure he exhibits sensuality in an aesthetic way. In Bobby (1973), he had Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia share a kiss, which of course became the talk of the town. The film industry was becoming bolder again, at least a certain section was trying to take the leap. Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman indulged in a lip lock in Satyam Shivam Sundaram in 1979. The film in general was spoken heavily of with regards to Zeenat Aman’s bold attire. In the 80s, Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia once again gave two hoots for the taboo around on-screen kissing and made love with their lips in Sagar.
What’s worse is that Libaas, a movie starring Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah showcasing several intimate scenes and extra-marital affairs wasn’t released in India for 30 years after its making in 1988. The movie was widely critically acclaimed around the world. Somehow, the Indian censor board though demonstrating extra-marital affair would pollute the minds of people. These aren’t kids, wth?
2000s Made Kissing Look Less Illegal Thanks To Sharmila Tagore
It was in the 2000s that kissing became a regular phenomenon. How did that happen? Sharmila Tagore became Chair of the censor board in India and under her leadership, several reforms happened. “I do believe in censorship and I do believe in freedom of expression, but at the same time, there has to be a reasonable restriction. You really can’t go back; the change of being liberal is here to stay for a longer time,” she had said.
In the end, it’s a business and filmmakers wouldn’t want movies to be shelved forever or not get a clearance from the censor board. But with the censor board finally taking a step towards liberalism, filmmakers were willing to take the leap too and show intimacy in a way that’s real.
In 2005, Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachchan shared a kiss in Black. Ironically, he seemed to have a problem with the kiss between Hrithik Roshan and bahu Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Dhoom (2008) and even asked the scene to be removed. A thorough display of the double-standards that are so deep-rooted in our culture.
Then came Emraan Hashmi who ensured that Bollywood gets all the kisses it missed in the past decades. Meanwhile, Mallika Sherawat, a woman on the other end of those kisses with Emraan Hashmi in Murder was looked down upon. Of course, Aamir Khan continued to lock lips, as he did with Kareena Kapoor in 3 Idiots. Kareena Kapoor’s kiss with Shahid Kapoor in Jab We Met too is memorable thanks to their sizzling chemistry in the film. It’s safe to say that Kapoors have been keeping sensuality alive in cinema and in the most elegant way.
In 2010, SRK who had sworn to never kiss on screen, too did it, finally! He kissed Katrina Kaif in Jab Tak Hai Jaan and that’s his one and only. But well, things change, people change.
ALSO READ:Throwback Thursday: Women’s Sexual Desires Were Systematically Suppressed By Bollywood’s Facade of Sanskaars
Well, Kissing Is At Its Peak Now
In fact, in 2012, Randeep Hooda and Saquib Saleem shared a passionate same-sex kiss in Bombay Talkies, thanks to Karan Johar’s liberal stance. There has been no looking back, even as Ayushman Khurrana showed same-sex intimacy in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. Today, we refuse to go back, and maybe now that we have normalised kissing, it’s time for the censor board to work on other aspects of the conservatism it’s still drowning in.