Dark side of desire
Films like "Jism," "Hawas" or "Murder" reflect the changing times, as the brave new heroines break conventions. Plots that pivot on lust and libido have the audiences lapping it up. Body worship has just begun, says ZIYA US SALAM.
Bipasha Basu, the new breed heroine, in "Jism."
THIS IS a season of adultery, fetching adultery actually in Bollywood. And promiscuity has become the favourite sin for the dream merchants. As more and more heroines walk out of marital closets, producers-directors are raking it rich with the audiences showing remarkable maturity of thought, flexibility of morals, and an eagerness to cater to the Satan within.
From "Jism" to "Murder," via "Hawas" and "Oops," it has been woman's liberation of a different kind on celluloid. Now, they say, ``body knows no love, it only respects desire'' and the crowd of cinegoers not just men nods in affirmation.
Welcome to the brave new heroine, comfortable with her body, smug in its needs. And not always apologetic about meeting those needs on the sly. Gone are the days of married women with sari, bangles and sindoor. Now, they wear the skimpiest of skirts and sarongs. Yes, the days of unfaithful husbands and films on extramarital relationships are over. Or at least are being redefined.
Men might still sow wild oats in Bollywood, as in the latest hit, "Masti," but women are giving them real competition and a totally unexpected twist to the timeless couplet: Aesa Nahin Tere Jahan Mein Pyar Na Ho, Jahan Ummeed Ho Iski Wahan Nahin Milta (It is not that the world does not have love, it is just you don't get it where you expect it).
Breach of trust by the women is an aspect in "Hawas".
Showcasing the dark side of desire have been filmmakers like Mahesh Bhatt, Vishal Bharadwaj, Karan Razdan and Deepak Tijori. Not to forget that seasoned filmmaker Aruna Raje, who has always courted controversy in the past. And did no different with "Tum" earlier this year.
The `in' thing is to have a heroine who either has a past, or is willing to have a dalliance with the devil, juxtapose that with plenty of flesh show, some breezy, some intimate sequences. And the audiences lap it up. Though not always due to a better understanding of women having the same rights unto men as they have on them but because the possibility of a woman moving out of marital bed to seek gratification elsewhere comes with the possibility of catering to voyeurs.
Filmmakers have been only too conscious of this fact and the consequent box office windfall which awaits them.
Just recently one had Razdan's "Hawas" which marked the debut of Meghna Naidu, the "Kaliyon ka Chaman" girl who revealed more than just dancing talent in the hit number interestingly nobody seems to be talking of Saswati, the girl who lent her vocal chords to the song.
It was no different in the film. There was plenty of flesh, little love and lots to lust. Not blessed with a face that can be her fortune, Meghna still managed to flaunt her limited assets and the film managed a decent initial run before giving in to the more tempting delights of "Murder."
That was Meghna's way of building a bond with the audiences. They came in, had their eyeful and walked on. It was meant to appease the baser instincts. It did not disappoint.
Then people walked into a cinema hall playing "Murder." Based loosely on "Unfaithful," it was almost frame-to-frame like "Hawas," released a week earlier. Nobody expected the Mahesh Bhatt-Anurag Basu film to work wonders it seemed to have lost out in the race because "Hawas" pipped it to the post.
The heroine, Mallika Sherawat, did her bit to create an interest in the film about a married woman meeting an old friend and finding more than emotional solace with him. ``I am like Viagra for the box office,'' Mallika declared. True enough, middle-aged men queued up, then came the college crowd and within no time, the film was declared the first hit of 2004!
"Leela" with the flavour of " Summer of '42."
The collections of the film scoffed at all the critics who wrote it off as just another desperate attempt to make money with some skin show. Soon enough, Bhatt was intellectualising the whole thing: ``It is not an art film, it is a normal commercial film which has been accepted by the masses. It is a sign of the times that a married woman with a boyfriend is accepted by the audiences.''
Before the two copies of "Unfaithful" incidentally, there was a third one, "Unfaithful Hawas," catering to the C-grade circuit it was director Aruna Raje who was making headlines. Her "Tum" was another case of `breach of trust.'
Raje had the seasoned Manisha Koirala playing a lonely wife to Rajat Kapoor's travelling husband. One tempting day she finds herself in the beguiling company of Karan Nath's enthusiastic photographer. The man has a way with words. And in bed.
Only a little earlier, Vishal Bharadwaj had announced his arrival as a filmmaker with depth and vision through "Maqbool." This Indianised version of "Macbeth" had tempting Tabu living with an ageing don Pankaj Kapoor and pining for the more robust charms of his youthful sidekick, Irrfan.
She was the candle which attracted the moth, the old man was reduced to a candle without a wick he could melt but could not burn. She was the enchantress who held the errant young man in thrall. The film with a delicious plot did not set any box office records but did decent enough and attracted the elite many of whom came back to take a second look. Yet, it is not just the phenomenon of this year. Almost a year before Raje's heroine hopped into bed with another man, Bhatt's heroine had done that in "Jism." The film was about the young wife of a middle-aged rich man. The man had the money but not what money cannot buy. The woman had other desires and there was a young man John Abraham in an impressive debut who was only too ready to take off his shirt and get down to the task ahead.
"Maqbool" ... where the heroine yearns for something more ...
The film was a success and the audiences hooted out the middle-aged husband who had no time for his wife!
Not so delicious was the fate of Deepak Tijori's directorial debut, "Oops." The film was promoted as a story based on the life of male strippers. It attracted attention for other reasons. It dared to show a married middle-aged woman again with a conveniently busy and travelling husband who not only cheats on her husband but also seeks gratification by paying for the favour! That one day she happened to seek out her son's best friend was what let the cat out of the bag! Until then the trips to male stripping clubs and all that were the best kept secret.
A little earlier Bipasha Basu was busy showing her ample figure and perpetually quivering lips in "Jism," seasoned Dimple Kapadia had lent a rare dignity to the role of a woman professor saddled with an open marriage, blaming her husband for it, then one day finding herself doing the same. Her fling with her student had "Summer of `42" written all over it but she did it with such restraint relish that nobody among the audiences could blame her for cheating on her man!
Yet not everything is hunky-dory. Nor is Bollywood washing its slate of prejudices clean. The more things seem to change, the more they remain the same. Raje's heroine could not drink normally, could not sleep with another man. In true Hindi film convention, she had to be forced to drink and then walk into someone else's bed in drunken stupor! Come on, one has had far better fare in films like "Ek Pal."
Mallika in "Murder" and Meghna in "Hawas" had to fight guilty feelings and at some stage or the other, play the good wife. In "Oops" it was the same case with Mita Vashisht. Just like Dimple in "Leela."
However, these are only small concessions, or a way of appeasing the die-hard audiences at the box office, a kind of safety valve. But actually things are changing. It is time to tamper with tradition. Forget the heart, it is time to cater to the needs of the body. Realising as much are filmmakers ready with films like "Husn," Tezaab," "Musafir" and "Deh." The body worship has just begun.
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