Planet Bollywood
Of Aishwaria Rai and Kissing James Bond
- Siddharth Srivastava           Let us know what you think about this feature article

Recently, India’s top actress Aishwaria Rai has been approached to play the Bond girl opposite Pierce Brosnan, a matter of pride for the entire sub-continent.

In interviews that have followed, Rai has been asked the same question --- will she kiss James Bond, as most Bond girls do, quite willingly.

Rai has been circumspect. She knows the Indian media too well. Even an unsuspecting remark could be a headline: ``Rai will kiss Brosnan,’’ or ``Rai prepared to bond with Bond,’’ or ``Rai will go all the way.’’

Rai told the British press that has agreed to appear in the next James Bond film if its producers agree to use a body double for the sex scenes. She told the British press that her strict upbringing meant there was no question of her doing anything saucy. ``I´ve said I will do the film if there is a body double. The producers have said they will have to ask Pierce,’’ she said. Pierce couldn’t be happy.

The focus here though has been on the kiss, as most writers have ruled out sex, as has Rai. Indeed, a top Bollywood actress kissing on the screen is as close as going all the way. Handsome as Brosnan may be, Rai’s answers have been neutral, ``I have not thought about it’’ to ``we will have to wait and see, I have made no such commitments.’’

A kiss in this country is big deal.

It has affected relations between India and Pakistan, although at most times it takes much less. A furor was created a couple of years back when prominent author Khuswant Singh planted a party peck on the daughter of the then Pakistani High Commissioner Qazi. The tenuous India-Pakistan relations took a further tumble. Qazi scurried off to Islamabad to kiss the feet of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif feet, explaining that the whole of Pakistan need not be outraged.

Worldwide, of course, a kiss always makes news, that is given prominent coverage here. Bill Clinton´s went as far as regularly kissing Hillary on the forehead. Didn’t feel the need to go any further. Tennis world no 1 Andre Agassi likes to plant sweaty lingering kisses on his wife Steffi Graf between shots and games. She doesn’t seem to mind. Not too long ago Agassi did it to Brooke Shields, who also did not seem to mind. Continuing with the tennis world the William sisters are regularly planted a `fatherly kiss´ by their father, in appreciation of the good work they are putting in. In the runaway hit Pretty Woman Julia Roberts most `personal kiss´ happened to be on the mouth, although she uses the same on every other part of Richard Gere´s anatomy.

Indian girls have been in the news for ``kissing indiscretions’’ that have not gone down too well with the population. Young, over-eager and beautiful actress Padmini Kholapure´s went ``all the way’’ with Prince Charles. Charles was in the news again in India for the `not-so-eager kiss´ by the late Princess Diana that sent the tabloids into a tizzy. There was actress Shabana Azmi planting a `freedom kiss´ on Nelson Mandela, which caused a lot of heartburn.

We are a liberal country, not in the mould of Pakistan, but are as bad when our women kiss or are kissed by men who don’t belong here. The only instance of public kissing here involves foreigners.

There is always a crowd of hangers-on who accumulate for a close-up of the action, which can happen on a street or a market place. The big question, however, remains.

With Internet porn, explicit pictures and video are just a click away. Why, then, is kissing such an issue in the land of Kamasutra and Khajuraho?

There have been several explanations.

First, is the stereotype of the Hindi movies, the most popular mass culture phenomenon, apart from cricket. There is no scope for kissing in cricket, as only men play it, and mostly men watch it.

In the Hindi movies the kiss is a really big happening, if at all it happens. Hindi songs are not only about running around trees, but also gyrations that approximate making love with clothes on and from a distance. But, when it comes to a real kiss, the world shakes and the heavens come down.

A recent example that attracted attention was the `rain kiss´ in the movie Raja Hindustani in which the two top stars Karishma Kapoor and Aamir Khan kiss each other. The clouds thundered, lightening struck and the rain grew heavier, as the lips embraced. The common explanation by producers and directors as well as the censor board is Hindi movies are family outings; so kissing is a no-no. But, the most brutal violence on screen escapes any cuts.

Recent crossover movies aimed at the NRIs and the English speaking urban audiences are bolder. One had the pleasure of watching the absolutely ravishing Lisa Ray kissing in Bollywood Hollywood. There were a number of full-throated scenes with Rahul Khanna, well shot with Lisa putting up a sterling performance. Then there was this movie called Khwaish that was released a few months ago. It stars two new comers who are being actively sought due to the 17 kissing scenes in the movie.

Recent surveys have indicated that promiscuity as well as frequency of sex among Indians is on the rise. Yet, it is not as if smooching happens in public places here.

Another reason is the laws that prosecute for public obscenity including kissing. Indian cops, generally a lethargic lot, are eagle-eyed about couples on the loose in gardens, parks, cars or any corner.

It’s the easiest money-earner.

One more explanation, far-fetched though, is the weather. It is hot most of the time, requiring air-conditioning for kissing in the open.

The writer, however, attributes it to kiss-met, of bad karma in the past, that has resulted in kisses being such misses in this great nation.


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