Who needs kissing?
Bollywood eveloves from tradition to trash
I, like many other Iranians, have had a life-long love affair
with Bollywood movies and music videos. It all
started when I was about 7 or 8 and I was
in London visiting my aunt's sister-in-law,
who is of Indian descent. For the whole summer, she would play
all these incredible epics,
which mixed comedy, melodrama, choreographed song-and-dance, romance,
murder and betrayal, all to the tune of Indian music and following
the wild movements of colorful saris flowing from behind a tree.
I remember I had started to imitate them in their song and dance
style which was all the more hard given I did not understand a
word they were saying. But the beauty of these bollywood movies
is, even without speaking the language, or having subtitles, you
totally understand what is going on.
First of all, they all had the same plot:
Boy, poor, but handsome and with charm and sense of humor meets
gorgeous Girl, with rich disapproving and traditional Father.
Boy and Girl fall in love but Girl is forced into an arranged
marriage with son of father's friend/business partner, who is a
Boy plots to get girl, with often hilarious results,
such as posing as the manservant in girl's household, setting up
brute to fail, and ends up winning the heart of the girl and her
In the end by some mysterious device, we find out Boy was actually
switched at birth/adopted and real father is actually rich and
powerful making him perfect match for Girl and the Indian caste
system can then rest easy as there has not been an affront to its
rigid pyramid-like structure.
And of course no matter how defiant the hero and heroine are
to the wrath of their elders, and how much they flirt with each
other from behind trees and bushes, one clear taboo is kissing
on the lips. They may come close! But their lips never ever touch
As I grew up, I started seeing more modern Bollywood movies,
featuring more independent heroines, a little more contemporary
heros. I watched most of these strangely enough during many trips
to Germany in the late 80s, early 90s (for some reason I decided
to take 5 years of German language classes in high school). Instead
of practicing my German, I ended up watching Turkish TV channels
which always played these Bollywood movies. Have you ever watched
an Indian movie dubbed in Turkish with Arabic subtitles on German
television? I have.
In these newer, fresher takes on old Bollywood tradition, there
was still the old plot of the Poor, Handsome Boy wooing the Rich,
Beautiful Girl. However the girl would now be educated and (gasp)
even want a career. Both Boy and Girl became much more Westernized
usually shown through boy wearing Michael Jackson t-shirts and
doing the dance numbers in Adidas and track suit, while girl replaced
the sari with business suit and oversized dark sunglasses perpetually
perched atop her head.
In these movies, the wooing of
heroine by hero gets the help of modern technology, for example
throwing bunches of roses on heroine's
head from a helicopter hovering her house.
There is usually also a big tragedy such as an accident
that leaves hero paralyzed for a week then miraculously recovers.
During the paralysis, the hero dumps the heroine "for her
own good." He then spends the entire break-up period gluing
huge oversized posters of his beloved on the walls of his home
then methodically ripping all the posters in half.
One movie in particular, dating from 1995, haunts my memory.
The girl in this story is actually raised in England. Although
is traditional and demure "at heart", this does not prevent
her from going on a (gasp) unchaperoned month-long trip
to Europe (a nondescript village
in Switzerland) with her girlfirends.
There she meets the hero,
played by very likeable although clearly on-acid Shahrukh Khan,
who is also raised in England but always professes he is "still
an Indian man." During this trip our heroine gets drunk on
cognac, wears a bathing suit, prays in a Christian church, shows
both legs and cleavage, and ends up spending the night in bed with
hero (although they don't "do" anything sicne they are
both demure and chaste Indians "at heart").
Pretty risque stuff for Bollywood although one thing has remained
the same. The hero and heroine never kiss on the mouth.
I thought this was about as far as the Bollywood world would
push the boundaries -- until two nights ago. I was visiting a ghalyoun
café near my house and saw, broadcast on a giant
plasma TV screen, some new Bollywood music videos that I can only
as soft-core porn. These had barely dressed women gyrating their
pelvis up and down on a bar, grinding their butts together and
downing tequila shots faster than you can say arrrrriba while
creepy guys with processed hair ogled and manhandled them.
My jaw permanetly
dropped on the floor. These nouveau-slut Indian actresses or
singers made all the overexposed blondes on MTV look like Victorian
wearing chaste bonnets and crinolines, clutching their handkerchief
in their gloved, delicate hands. It was the shocker of all time.
But one thing has remained the same in the Bollywood world: Nobody
ever kisses on the lips!