In the beginning there was the coy miss. She wouldn’t dare to kiss, for fear of being branded a libertine. But wait. There’s a catch! Way back in 1933 Devika Rani shocked prudes with her long and lingering kiss with her real-life soul-mate Himanshu Rai in Karma.
The shocking episode of lip-locked intimacy remained isolated for several decades. India’s outdated censorial policies didn’t allow filmmakers to go beyond a furtive peck on the cheek or two flowers touching petals when a kiss had to be shown.
In the swinging 1960s Shammi Kapoor could get away with singing a song with slurpily suggestive words …Kiss kiss kisko pyar karoon. But it took another 40 years for Mallika Sherawat to do a film called Kiss Kiss Ki Kismat and put her tongue where the hero’s mouth was.
Between Devika Rani’s torrid kiss and Mallika Sherawat’s Kiss Kiss ki Kismat Hindi cinema displayed an astonishing coyness about matters pertaining to lips. For many decades the censorboard wouldn’t allow couples to do the smooch thing even if they were mature and married!
The only kiss in the 1960s was visible in Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker where Raj Kapoor did a lip-to-lip with Russian actress Ksiena Rambiankina. The logic behind the lipped liberalism? It was okay to kiss a foreigner, but not an Indian!
In the repressed 1970s it took Raj Kapoor to bring the kiss out of the closet. In Satyam Shivum Sunderam he made his sibling Shashi Kapoor squirm through a kiss with the ‘zany’ Zeenat Aman under a waterfall. The formula was repeated with Kapoor’s son Rajiv Kapoor who in Ram Teri Ganga Maili did another one of those `Kiss-Miss biz` with Mandakini.
For all practical purposes the kiss remained taboo in Hindi films. No mainstream actor was willing to try the lip lock, until in the 1990s Dharamesh Darshan made Aamir Khan smooch Karisma Kapoor for ten whole minutes in Raja Hindustani.
The kiss had finally arrived in mainstream cinema. And from there onwards Darshan insisted on planting a kiss in all his plots. You may not have seen Akshay Kumar and Shilpa Shetty go down the smack track in Darshan’s Dhadkan. But that’s because Kumar and Shetty broke up before the film’s release. Their kiss was discreetly pruned out.
Yup, there’s a smooch in Dharamesh Darshan’s latest offering Bewafaa, though by now the kiss has lost its sting, thanks to Mallika Sherawat’s 61-smooch claim in Khwahish two years ago followed by Murder where she set the screen aflame with her sharp-tongued activities.
In Julie Neha Dhupia too got boldly beautiful with co-stars Yash Tonk and Sanjay Kapoor.
In her new release Sheesha Dhupia goes all out with Sonu Sood. The French kisses are so French they make Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivum Sunderam look like a priest and a nun.
Dhupia admits there are too many deep-throat kisses in Sheesha. “My co-star and I kept wondering what was going on. Sonu finally suggested we just go ahead and do it…because the censors were in any case going to pull out the torrent of torrid cases. Just my luck that they decided to pull out all stops instead,” laughs Dhupia.
After decades of repression the on-screen kiss has reached a saturation point within two years, thanks to the excessive zeal displayed in films like Murder, Julie, Hawas and Sheesha.
The talented filmmaker Arjun Sablok who made one of the most romantic films Na Tum Jano Na Hum in recent times, says “A kiss is supposed to be a beautiful haunting and poignant expression of love between two individuals. Recent films have turned it into an occasion for lustful liaisons. The kiss now looks crude and objectionable on screen.”
The one film to have reversed the raunchy element in the celluloid kiss is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black. The kiss in this film between the sexually frustrated deaf-and-blind girl Michelle (Rani Mukherjee) and her aging teacher Debraj (Amitabh Bachchan) denudes the act of love of all eroticism to make it a statement of the life force in all its tragic dimensions.
Says Rani Mukherjee, “At first it seemed very odd that I should be telling Amit Uncle, ‘Give me a kiss’ on screen. We had some terrible moments of uncertainty on screen. But then the whole sequence is so poignant and tragic, my character’s bitter lack of sexual love, her doomed certainty that she would never know the pleasure of being loved by a man, makes her plea for a kiss to her teacher a moment of heightened tragedy. I’m so happy and relieved that audiences have perceived this sensitive moment for what it’s meant to be.”
Indeed the luminously elegiac kiss in Black has brought back the touch of enigma mystery subtlety and sublimity to the kiss, qualities that you thought were gone in the clumsy necking touguing and panting that passes off as genuine expressions of love and passion in the films of recent times.
Kamal Haasan who in Hey Ram did yet another maturely handled kissing scene with Rani Mukherjee, has as usual his own take on the subject. “A kiss is not and shouldn’t be a big deal. I’ve done several such scenes in many of my films without the least selfconsciousness. It could and should be a natural expression of love between two adults. Alas in our films it’s tongue-to-tongue to make audiences tongues hang out.”
The aesthetic element in the screen kiss has come back with Black. No longer does the screen heroine have to look as startled as Dimple Kapadia in Ramesh Sippy’s Sagar when Rishi Kapoor planted a loud slurp smack on her lips. Later she did a much-publicized long-forgotten lip lock with Sunny Deol in Mahesh Bhatt’s Gunah, but looked extremely unhappy being caught in what’s supposed to be a natural expression of love.
“That’s because our films have invariably made it look forced and sleazy. Besides most of our actors and actresses don’t really know how to kiss,” says a young filmmaker his tongue firmly in cheek.