Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kiss and the City (plus: more reflections on Bollywood)

Today’s HT City has a cover story titled “Why can’t we kiss?”, about the hoopla over the Aishwarya-Rai-Hrithik Roshan smooch in Dhoom 2. The story begins reasonably enough, with the question “What is more scandalous - a kiss per se or standing in a court of law to debate whether it is vulgar or not?” but then quickly shoots itself in the foot with this remarkable sentence:
For God’s sake, would somebody tell all the self-appointed keepers of morality that it was not Hrithik Roshan kissing Aishwarya Rai but Aryan kissing Sunheri, the characters in the movie?
I am, to put it mildly, gobsmacked. For the following reasons:

- The over-used term “self-appointed keepers of morality”, which has exactly the same effect on me early in the morning as cricketing cliches such as “India’s much-vaunted batting lineup...” do.

- The assumption that those who have filed the obscenity case actually care a whit about the finer distinctions between the actors and the characters. What the self-appointed morality-keepers are objecting to, dear and earnest HT City, is the fact that a human male and a human female are locking lips on a big screen, and that the giant edifice of Indian Culture will quickly dissipate if enough people watch this. They don’t care whether it’s Hrithik and Ash up there, or Aryan and Sunheri, or Laloo and Rabri.

(Just by and by, technically speaking, it was Hrithik Roshan kissing Aishwarya Rai. Ask the Bachchans.)

- The silly controversy aside, and speaking purely as a movie-watcher, what I find most amusing about that sentence is the implication that Ms Rai and Mr Roshan have submerged themselves into their characters so fully that one can make a meaningful distinction between the portrayers and the portrayed. This is quite contrary to everything I’ve seen and heard about Dhoom 2 so far (I’ll make up my own mind if and when I see the full movie). By all accounts, most of the “acting” in this film is a chimera, jointly created by the cinematography, the editing, the background score and the costume design.

Films like Dhoom 2 are taking the cult of the Star Personality to its logical conclusion. For some time now, many mainstream Bollywood films have included at least one token scene that exists purely as homage, as self-reference. This is often in the form of a “friendly appearance” by a well-known actor, usually playing a beacon of hope for one of the film’s principals, and the impact of such a scene depends on the viewer’s knowledge of who this actor is. (Even Lagey Raho Munnabhai couldn’t resist bringing in Abhishek Bachchan for a two-minute climactic appearance where his character saves the day. The scene in question would make very little sense to a hypothetical viewer who had no idea who Abhishek Bachchan was.) I think the trend goes back to Salman Khan's role in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, though that now seems like a fully realised character compared to some of today's guest appearances.

Now at last we have an entire film that’s built on this principle. Here’s Hrithik, we’re supposed to gasp each time he shows up, and there’s Ash, and Abhishek, and Bipasha, and don’t they all look so bronzed and chiselled and gorgeous...and oh, there’s that Uday Chopra chappie. What’s he trying to act for? Why can’t he just walk towards us in slow-motion?

Given all this, why go on pretentiously about the difference between "actors" and the "characters" they are supposed to be playing?

P.S. I also loved the box with the story, about different types of smooches. Here, for instance, is the Forehead Kiss: Simply brush your lips lightly across the crown of head. (For those who don’t know what a forehead is, or have trouble locating it.)

And the Freeze Kiss, described exactly as it would be in an Instruction Manual: Put a small piece of ice in your mouth, then open mouth and kiss your partner, passing them the ice with your tongue.

That box will do a better job of putting people off kisses than any morality brigade possibly could.


  1. Ha ha! I should subscribe to HT and TOI, if only for this. One of my favourite columns was the one in which males (it was always males) who had seen certain women the day before would write in to say how they had fallen in love with those women at first sight. (Or something like that.) But I've heard that they've removed that. Have they?

  2. Simply silly and at the same time very disgusting.

    First of all, there is nothing to raise questions about. If you don't like it don't see it and rather than taking trials on actor/actress, I would say that the court should ask the members of Censor board who passed the scene (if its really objectionable).

    And why don't we talk about the movies like Khwaish? (everyone remembers, 17 kisses, wow!). Were they all classics? Or movies like murder. All knows Imraan Hasmi. I call him Smoocher singh a.k.a Mr. Kisser. If Dhoom2 is to face trial than Hasmi should be hanged, hanged till death.

    All I would say is that, movies are for entertainment. Please don't spoil the motto. Watch the movie, appreciate the actings and let others do the same. And all these conspiracy will spoil the entertainment industry.

  3. wow! u've REALLY run out of things to blog about!

  4. jabberwock: have you seen a site called

  5. Jai,

    Have you seen the kiss? I think Amit posted a link to the youtube video.

    Seriously, to describe it as a kiss is an insult to all passionate kissers in the world! It was just brushing of lips against lips. I hope Ash and Hrithik kiss much better in real life.

  6. I hope Ash and Hrithik kiss much better in real life

    Confused: how would it make a difference to you either way?

  7. "Now at last we have an entire film that’s built on this principle."
    Right on.I am surprised how you got this movie without watching it.

  8. Speaking of cliches, there's something worse than "the much vaunted Indian line-up".

    If someone says "form is temporary, class is permanent" to me once more, I'll throw a shoe at the person, screaming hysterically at the same time!!!!

    What are the chances I'll end up throwing the shoe at my own TV, and very soon?


    Or, you take the Truffaut, I'll take the David Dhawan.

    (belligerent look)

  10. Shan: the chances are 100 per cent. And very soon, definitely. SO keep a spare pair of shoes handy.

    Anonymous: actually, I like David Dhawan (at least his 4-5 best movies) quite as much as I like Truffaut. SO I'll take them both. You take Shan's shoes.

    (benevolent look)

  11. Jai,

    Thats an unfair question.

    (I refuse to admit that I don't have an answer. :) )

  12. Anonymous: you can have Shan's shoes.
    Shan: throw it soon
    JAS: Truffaut & Dhawan are yours.

    Me, I'll pick up Shan's tv! ;-)

    This is getting about as silly as the damn PIL!

  13. Its very unlikely, any movie will get past the Censor Board, at this rate.

    I can't believe people watch a movie if they think its beyond their moral whatever. after all those raunchy remixed music kiss..hardly qualified to be even a kiss..throws up a debate. Unbelievable.

  14. Now This...
    was hillarious.
    I love the way you write.

    P.S. chanced by. yeah - people looking for 'words' can chance by even on blogs..!

  15. India is always taboo about kissing scenes. Remember those old days where flowers were used to kiss instead of our actors and actresses. We have the population of 100+ crores and still we are going ga ga over it.

    As far as Hrithik is concerned I think he was much better than John and Aamir. His performance was amazing and love his looks too.

    Hrithik and Aishwarya made a beautiful couple and I think that's why Hrithik is one person with whom Aishwarya did maximum movies (after Abhishek).

    My selection of Hrithik Roshan top 10 films >>>