Even as big budget films continue to bleed producers (e.g. SHAANDAAR, SINGH IS BLING etc.,) the trend today is to make small budget films sans stars with minimum investment and gain maximum returns at the box office. One of the best options for this to make sleazy films. Sex sells. Neha Dhupia went on record the other day that only Shahrukh Khan and Sex sell as far as Hindi Cinema is concerned. She isn’t very much off the target. Every time you mention the once forbidden three-letter word, you will hear a sigh. Wow! Pooja Bhatt’s JISM, made on a meagre budget of a mere three crores made a whopping kill at the box office, whereas the Aishwarya Rai starrer DIL KA RISHTA made on a budget of around 20 crores proved to be a disaster. Jyothi Venkatesh reports …
JULIE, JISM, MURDER, HAWAS, MASTI and GRAND MASTI are big hits. JULIE enabled producer Babloo Pachisia to recover his investment and make some decent profits. As Neena Gupta puts it succinctly, “From time immemorial people have made use of sex to sell their products. Films like JISM, MURDER, HAWAS etc., are just being honest, even artistic about it. And I do not see anything wrong in it. It is all a part of the game. Hypocritical prudery is infinitely worse.”
Though censors may have become prudes, during Asha Parekh’s time as the Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification, when it came to letting dare bare scenes of kissing in films, Indian Cinema was quite progressive way back in the 30’s when a Lalita Pawar did not hesitate to flaunt her perfect figure in a bikini. Even Meenakshi Shirodkar who was the grandmother of Shilpa Shirodkar and Namrata Shirodkar had appeared in a one-piece bikini in the 40’s in Master Vinayak’s hit film BRAHMACHARI, which was made not only in Hindi but also in Marathi. Meenakshi clad in a one-piece bikini shocked the conservative Maharashtrians of that time.
In JISM, twelve years ago in 2003, Bipasha Basu showed raw skin, seduced a stranger like John Abraham and plotted her own husband Gulshan Grover’s murder – all that normally only a Hindi film vamp is supposed to do, and yet walked away with accolades which very few heroines manage to get. It is interesting to note that though before JISM was released, her price was just around INR 75 lakhs, and it shot up overnight. This, despite the fact that her last five films – GUNAAH, RUDRAKSH, HUM KISISE KUM NAHIN , ISHQ HAI TUMSE, AETBAAR etc., vanished from theatres without etching the slightest mark in viewer’s minds.
The phenomenal success of MURDER in fact prompted several producers of the day to play safe and resort to making small budget films, which have themes that revolve around sex. What is ironical is that even a respected South Indian film maker like T Rajendhran who completed his first venture in Hindi – O MERI JAAN with new faces, even contemplated on changing the title of his film to BADAN or TAN or GARAM HONTH because these days distributors simply refuse to touch a film with new faces if it does not have a catchy, or for that matter sexy title.
Basu Bhattacharya’s last film – AASTHA, literally shocked conservative audiences and created a big furore in the country. In his film Rekha played a housewife who decides to earn some extra money on the side by sleeping around with her customers rather unwittingly when enticed into the trade by a wily woman who was a supplier.
Subtle sex has always been one of the highlights of Shyam Benegal’s films, be it ANKUR, NISHANT or for that matter BHUMIKA. Benegal’s strong point has always been the way he puts across brutal power with sexual undertones. In ANKUR, NISHANT, MANTHAN and KONDURA, the inter relationship between power, ritual, sex and violence is repeatedly explored with remarkable persistence. The vastness and barrenness of the land, the long blazing afternoons, the scarcity of nubile women adding to their desirability – Benegal has explored this area of passion and unreason with sureness of touch.
B.R. Chopra, whose INSAF KA TARAZU created a stir with its then quite bold depiction of the rape sequence of Zeenat Aman and Padmini Kolhapure by Raj Babbar, went on record to tell me that even the so very hotly discussed kiss did not encounter any difficulty in those days before Independence.
“I have seen quite a few Indian pictures displaying this art of making love. It was mostly in silent films when the songs could not be there naturally. So a kiss was a kind of short cut to romantic scenes and people too accepted them without much fuss till public agitation picketed the cinema where a profusely kiss-ridden film called ZARINA starring Zubeda and Jal Merchant was being screened. I remember how the crowds became rowdy at Lahore where the cinema house showing the movie was threatened to be burnt. Later ANARKALI with Sulochana and D. Billimoria had to be banned due to excessive kissing scenes.”
Rape scenes became the order of the day once again in the early 70’s when the film DO RAHA was made by producer Ram Dayal with Feroz Chinoy as the director. The rape sequence between the late Roopesh Kumar and Radha Saluja is still being talked about for its unusually long duration. Believe it or not, the rape sequence went on and on for nearly twenty minutes during the climax of the film.
The guru of sex in Indian cinema was undoubtedly the great showman Raj Kapoor, who made it a point to disrobe almost every heroine of his, whether it was Vyjayanthimala or Padmini or for that matter Mandakini. One remembers the controversial scene involving Simi Garewal even today in his MERA NAAM JOKER. How can one forget the scene in which Mandakini is shown baring both her breasts when she is breast-feeding her child in RAM TERI GANGA MAILI ? Or for that matter the scene in MERA NAAM JOKER where Padmini’s blouse is torn and her left breast pops out inadvertently ? Raj Kapoor did not spare even his son Rishi Kapoor when it came to shooting a scene in the nude in Bobby. Fortunately for Rishi, the scene was scissored out when the film was released.
Post JISM and MURDER, while on one hand English films made in India or by NRIs have made their presence felt in a big way like LEELA, LET’S TALK, STUMBLED, FREAKY CHAKRA, HYDERABAD BLUES, BOLLYWOOD CALLING, MONSOON WEDDING etc., on the other hand there has been a proliferation of small budget sex films shot in six days with a small budget of just eight lakhs. These films do not need big stars. When there is sex as the luring factor, who needs a Shah Rukh or Salman or Deepika Padukone or a Kareena Kapoor ? These films have generated a lot of employment. The producers are happy that they can call the shots with willing actors and actors who are ready to do “anything and everything” in front of the camera.
The distributors in turn are happy that their investments are safe and secure since the rights cost them only about three lakhs or so and they can easily recover their meagre investment besides making moderate profits. There are producers like Kanti Shah (MERI GANGA KI SAUGANDH), Sanjay-Jinder (JAIL QUEENS), Kesar Matharu (LAFDAA), Sikander Bhatia (HOTTEST MAIL.COM) and Aruna Sharma (HELLO GIRLS) who make such films with alarming regularity and are all laughing their way to the banks.
The reason is not hard to seek. Today, with the exception of say a PK, HAPPY NEW YEAR, BAAHUBALI or a BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN, films starring bigwig stars are falling like tenpins. There is no guarantee as to which film will click and which will bite the dust. The producer is not here in the business for the sake of charity or for promoting art. At the rate at which big films are flopping, the day is not very far off when you will get to see only sleazy films made on a small budget with unknown and willing stars ready to display raw flesh on the screen. After all it is a question of survival of the fittest. In this case it seems like the survival of the one who is ready to bare the maximum.
Take it from a film scribe like me, who has put in more than four decades in this field. This is nothing but a passing phase. As soon as the multiplexes come in a large number and the quality of films improves with more focus on the script, which is the right foundation and not the stars like today, the situation will go in for a big toss. Instead of concentrating on sex and nudity, film makers will star concentrating on family socials like in the 60’s and 70’s. Like PREM RATAN DHAN PAAYO.
There is a ray of hope.