Friday, November 30, 2012

The outlawed lip-locks of Indian cinema

He’s the one-in-all intelligence extraordinaire of the nation. From sniffing out terrorist threats to neutralising them and tracking down its masterminds, so smooth is his modus operandi that it could give hot chocolate sauce poured over ice-cream a complex. His bravado outclasses that of a Jason Bourne, his magnetism to the feminine could put a James Bond to shame and in plan execution could make your Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger seem like schoolboys fighting over a lollipop. The protagonist in Thuppakki, an army officer portrayed by Ilayathalapathy Vijay, does this all and much more, but is unable to perform the simple act of kissing his lady-love, well, on her lips. He gets the opportunity to do so twice, but the call of duty precedes his romantic pursuits, resulting in Cupid’s own travesty!

Lips-locked, literally, one may say.

This, however, may serve as a pointer to a deep-rooted phenomenon in the Indian film industry in general and the Tamil film industry (Kolywood) in particular, which I choose to call the filmmakers’ embargo against on-screen lip-to-lip kissing. The lead couple may frolic around, gyrate around in some not-so-subtle moves, be in attires next to nothing, but they cannot kiss each other on the lips.

We Indians are real prudes when it comes to sex, you see.

A few examples come to my mind instantly. Where better to begin than with the movies of Superstar Rajnikanth? Veera, a slapstick comedy, has the Thalaivar playing a bigamous spouse who trembles at the very prospect of pecking his wives, even on their cheeks. In Annamalai, he gets into a devotional fit after accidentally stepping into a bathroom where the leading lady has just disrobed. His biggest cinematic ‘volte-face’ has to be in Muthu, in which he smooches the leading lady in revenge (yes, you read it right) for her taking him for a ride over the meaning of the word kiss. The smooch, though, is only for a fleeting moment — during which the camera pans to a goat.

Another such instance — and I could fill all of Google’s servers with such — that comes as downright ridiculous is Surya’s characterisation in Ayan. Here we have a smuggler dealing in blood diamonds (Surya), who would not even flinch to murder, developing the jitters when a woman, gently sits — suggestively, of course — beside him in a bordello, following which he takes to his heels. But he is the good guy, and good guys don’t smooch.

After all, aren’t Kollywood’s heroes’ favourite quotes on love and women have been, invariably, variations of the statement “it is the woman who must seek the man and not the other way round”?

In this regard, it may be safe to conclude that one of Rajnikanth’s contemporaries, a certain Kamal Hasan, belongs to another planet. The steamy lip-locks in his movies from Hey Ram to Virumandi to name a few may have set the tongues of the moral brigade wagging, but give it to him for his gumption to stand apart!

However, this post ain’t a plea to increase the ‘French quotient’ in our movies. The ostrich-like mentality of our filmmakers outlined above only highlights their skewed attitude towards morality and allied issues. We may squirm at the smooch, but not at item numbers or kuthu songs with lyrics that hand us lessons on the female anatomy (Remember the number naa chnina veeda varattuma, periya veeda varattuma? — which roughly translates into “shall I be your wife or concubine?). We may not so much even raise an eyebrow if the leading lady appears in itsy-bitsy costumes when she’s courting the hero, but if she’s married she has to be an epitome of virtue, an equivalent of the Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa and Sita — all combined. And so what if small children gyrate to such numbers in reality shows for children and other public shows.
  
How dare you smooch? You’re such a pervert, just as the French are