Bollywood’s Reluctance to Kiss and Tell
Remember the fallout when Richard Gere playfully kissed Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty at a fundraising event? It may be odd to audiences who are used to a highly sexualized Hollywood, but up until recently in India public kissing was grounds for criminal obscenity charges. Several Bollywood actors are now pushing the boundaries of this old taboo, so who are these lip-locking rebels?
Before we kiss and tell, here’s a brief synopsis of some of Bollywood’s kissing calamites.
In 2006, a lawyer filed an obscenity case against Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan for their very brief on-screen kiss in Dhoom 2, but the case was thrown out. In Gere’s 2007 Hollywood meets Bollywood incident, a warrant was issued for his arrest and certain extreme factions burned effigies of the actor. Luckily, interest in the incident fizzled soon after Gere apologized.
Perhaps the most extreme incident occurred outside of Bollywood. In 2009, police arrested a married couple who shared a kiss near a railway station. Mercifully the judge erred on the side of common sense, stating: “it is inconceivable how… an expression of love by a young married couple would attract an offence of obscenity and trigger the coercive process of law”.
Ironically, kissing seems relatively benign compared to the tales of Bollywood love told through dance, which often feature wet clothing, thrusting, and grinding a-plenty—yet this is deemed perfectly acceptable. Whether or not you agree with India’s stance on kissing, the fact of the matter is the country is still struggling to come to terms with its views on women and sexuality—and kissing has become a symbolic line in the sand for India’s right-wingers.
Smooching on big screen isn’t attracting the attention it once did. Some of the leading ladies leaving their lipstick mark all over Bollywood include Mallika Sherawat, Kareena Kapoor and Anushka. Among the gents, it’s Emraan Hashmi, Aamir Khan, Ranbir Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, and Imran Khan who challenging the establishment. Nonetheless, these actors have all gained some degree of notoriety for their on-screen intimacy, which highlights the fact that in India a kiss is not just a kiss.