Time for a shuddh desi James Bond, after Baba Ramdev's atta noodles. Who needs a $250-million excuse, sinisterly named Spectre, to let Daniel Craig kiss Monica Bellucci or Léa Seydoux in between saving the world? Apna Salman Khan can do it in one-third the budget and without kissing, and with the standard naach-gaana too. He will also flaunt those six-packs, glistening gloriously with sweat - just as the fans ordered...
Paseena Royale, anyone? Who needs Licence To Kiss? James Bond will not pucker up to audience anticipation in India, when Spectre opens on November 20. The censors have given the film two visual cuts, and both pertain to kissing. Reportedly, the quantum of kissing has been brought down by 50 per cent (that's heartbreaking news for Bellucci fans especially - as it is she barely had a one-and-half scene footage in the uncut version).
The decision to chop those pecks from Spectre must have taken longer for the censors than it took for cyber world to gleefully go viral with jokes and snides. Most feel it is a hilarious decision on part of the current censor board, which seems to love promoting moss-backed eccentricity in the name of upholding Indian culture.
Kissing is not something our big stars seem to be natural at - not even the new lot that has less inhibitions. Pick any random Bollywood kissing clip and you cannot help but notice an invariable element of awkwardness. Unlike Hollywood actors, stars of the Hindi screen are somehow never at ease kissing. The censors' decision to chop the smooches of Spectre might find an answer there. Like everything related to sex, the industry's reaction to a kissing scene is mostly ridden with taboo, and it shows. Our censors are no different. The situation was always not the same. Once upon a time in Bollywood, before Pahlaj Nihalani, chairperson, Central Board of Film Certification of India, was even born, screen queen of the '20s and '30s Devika Rani shared a full four-minute kiss with co-actor and husband Himanshu Rai in the 1933 film titled Karma.
Compared to what would happen later, kissing in the Hindi films of pre-Independent India was fairly common, primarily because the British censors presided. Like everything that has ever defined Bollywood, the trend of kissing in Hindi films those days was also inspired by Hollywood.
The fad would see a downslide post Independence. In the '50s and '60s, top stars shied away from kissing because they felt it would put off the family crowd - that eternal pot of gold that defines the box office. The '70s and '80s saw the rise of the action hero.
With screen violence ruling, producers of romantic drama and thrillers were quick to realise sex, including the kiss, could click if served in right proportions. Raj Kapoor and Feroze Khan were the most prominent of this lot. RK's Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) and Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985) had kisses, but that was part of a larger sexually-overt titillation spread. Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia kissed in Kapoor's Bobby (1973), setting the mood for one of Bollywood's earliest teenybopper romances.
Feroze Khan's films, known to push the masala genre the Hollywoodish way, almost always had kissing scenes. His 1988 dud Dayavan has given Bollywood one of its most powerful sequences, featuring Vinod Khanna and Madhuri Dixit. Most kissing scenes till the '90s, though, were exceptions rather than rules.
Things changed when Aamir Khan and Karisma Kapoor's full-on smooch in the 1996 release Raja Hindustani became a rage. Forever the trendsetter, Aamir was obviously the first Bollywood superstar of his generation to realise that fast-approaching liberalisation would alter audience mindset. The target audience of Bollywood was also getting younger. Like designer labels and American colas entering India around the time, the kiss made its way onto the Hindi screen for a more frequent sojourn.
Ever since the new censor board took over, kissing scenes have been mostly absent from the Bollywood films. Pahlaj Nihalani - best known as the potboilers producer as Aag Hi Aag, Aag Ka Gola, Paap Ki Duniya and Aankhen (the one starring Govinda) - and his censor board are clearly not interested in open expression of love. Till the next censor revamp, lips can forget getting adequate action on screen.