Media reports gushingly inform us that there are 27 kisses in the new Bollywood film – Shudhdh Desi Romance, which stars Parineeti Chopra, Sushant Singh Rajput, Vaani Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor. Not only did someone sit down and actually count the number of lip locks in the film, the media devoted acres of reportage to it – this is presumably a USP for the film and is meant to attract viewers. Whether this hype and publicity makes the film succeed or fail is really secondary – the fact is that kisses are considered a marketing gambit for a Hindi film.
In Bollywood, kisses are counted, they are timed, they are watched and re-watched either on Youtube or by watching the movie repeatedly; the media even makes lists of top Bollywood kisses rating them in order of passion, aesthetics, duration and so on.
Some years ago a movie called Khwaish starring Mallika Sherawat and Himanshu Malik made headlines for containing a record 17 kisses (again someone was counting). It was quite a nice movie I seem to remember but for the most part this movie is remembered not for its niceness or otherwise; but for its kisses.
In Emraan Hashmi we even have our very own, Serial Kisser – an epithet that is part description, part reproach and part scorn. What all this tells us is that kissing is still a big deal – in Bollywood and for us Indians as a whole.
PDA is not common in our country
The fact is that we Indians are squeamish of public displays of affection (PDA); at least PDA of the romantic variety. Mothers hugging kids or doting grandparents lavishing affection upon grandkids is OK, even a brotherly hug for a sister may be deemed OK; but lovers must not admit to loving. We could debate the merits or demerits of PDA ad nauseum – whether it’s right or wrong is a matter of personal belief.
However the net result is that we are simply not used to people expressing their love for each other in public – it may be more common than before, but is still out of the ordinary. The sight of lovers holding hands, hugging or kissing still evokes a reaction from people – whether that reaction is positive or negative is again secondary. People do still notice; they do react. It is still a matter of discussion.
Actors are still self conscious about kissing
The situation about PDAs being what it is and public sentiments being what they are, Bollywood actors tend to be self conscious about kissing. Some simply refuse to do it; some make a huge deal out of it (witness the big deal made out of Shah Rukh Khan finally kissing his co-star Katrina Kaif in Jab Tak Hai Jaan). Reams were written about the actor breaking his own self imposed rule of no-kissing on screen, the whys and the wherefores about said decision.
And then when we do see a kiss on scene finally, there is such a weight of expectation from the viewing public that most on-screen lip-locks tend to appear awkward and less than natural. Too many kisses in Indian movies look like the actors just don’t know how to kiss! There tends to be such a build up to the ‘Kiss’ that is rather like a separate event rather than a part of the narrative or a natural progression of a story.
Actors themselves know that their on-screen osculations will be viewed, reviewed, analysed, described, written about, criticised, eulogised… is it any wonder that they feel self conscious? It is any wonder that the end result tends to appear somewhat someone forced and awkward?
Until such time as the Indian viewing public sees the almighty ‘Kiss’ as something that is par for the course rather than something to inspire feelings of amazement, wonder and anticipation, we can expect the Bollywood Kiss to remain like this – a big deal for all concerned.
So for the near future we shall continue to have headlines that scream Sushant Singh Rajput turns Serial Kisser – Kisses Co-stars 27 times in Shudhdh Desi Romance (even the headlines in leading, self respecting national dailies) and will still have a credulous public that rushes to the theaters to watch said 27 kisses.
By – Reena Daruwalla