If today moralists are shocked to see Isha Koppiker and Amrita Arora locked in an unholy clinch in Girlfriend, Hindi films even in the old days of Victorian morals, dared to cross the frontiers of formal filmmaking, to look at sexual mores from a refreshingly un-jaundiced point of view.
Way back in 1953 Kamal Amrohi made Daera where the sexual frustrations of a young woman (Meena Kumari) married to an aging ailing man were symbolically represented in the dark cavernous shots denoting a deep sense of longing.
Daera was considered ahead of its times. But what about Mehboob Khan’s Amar(1954) where Dilip Kumar, then in his haloed heroic heydays, seduced and impregnated Nimmi even while he was engaged to Madhubala.
Pre-marital sex had arrived in Hindi films. Could condoms be far behind? Strangely protected sex didn’t raise its ogling head in our film until two years ago when Mallika Sherawat urged her lover-boy Himanshu Malik to buy condoms in Khwahish before "doing it."
Prior to that pre-marital sex in our films was synonymous with instant fertility. In Aradhana(1969) the first of many elaborate melodramas on unwed motherhood, Sharmila Tagore was impregnated by Rajesh Khanna on a windswept night.
In 1972’s Pinjra V Shantaram chronicled the lustful liaison between a `tamashewali` (Sandhya) and a staid school teacher (Shreeram Lagoo). A year later in Shayam Benegal’s Ankur Shabana Azmi played the adultress wife of a physically challenged man.
And in 1973’s sensational hit Julie Laxmi sleeps with her neigbour while no one is in the house. Of course she gets pregnant. Sex wasn’t joyous for Julie, that’s for sure.
Pre-marital sex in all these films was furtive, sinful, and filled with retribution. Sex as a joyful act was perhaps experienced for the first time in Basu Bhattacharya’s Astha where Rekha playing a sex-weary housewife went out to get pocket -money by providing sexual pleasures to strangers.
The shocking premise provided a kind of turning point to the relationship between sex and the mainstream Hindi cinema. Today when Girlfriend gets uninhibited about lesbianism we can only look at the our cinema and say, "You’ve come a long way, Babe!"