The Kismet of Kisses
In India kissing is big deal. In the recent past, the rumor mills were doing overtime suggesting that India's top actress Aishwaria Rai was approached to play the Bond girl opposite Pierce Brosnan.
In interviews that followed, Rai had been asked the question - will she kiss James Bond, as most Bond girls do, quite openly (if you will excuse the pun). Rai was circumspect. She knows the Indian media too well. Even an unsuspecting remark could be a headline: "Rai prepared to bond with Bond," or "Rai will go all the way."
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."
On the other hand, Bollywood at home is doing all it can to push the envelope on kissing. Khwaish, a recent release stars two newcomers who are being actively sought due to the 17 kissing scenes in the movie.
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 Kushwanth 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, too, kisses make for news, if not outright sensational. Bill Clinton, for example, had a habit of pecking Hillary on the forehead. Didn't feel the need to go any further.
Tennis ace 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. Something about the sweat or the thousands of cameras.
In the runaway hit Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts most ?personal kiss' happened to be on the mouth, although she planted 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. Years past, the over-eager and beautiful actress Padmini Kholapure had gone ?all the way' with Prince Charles. There was actress Shabana Azmi planting a ?freedom kiss' on Nelson Mandela, which caused a lot of heartburn to many a imams.
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. In Bollywood, kissing, especially on the mouth, is still a taboo. Strangely though, the song and dance routines are a whole different matter. They are not only about running around trees, but also gyrations that approximate making love with clothes on.
But, when it comes to a real kiss in Bollywood movies, the world shakes and the heavens come down. Sometimes literally. 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.
Though, the recent crossover movies aimed at the NRIs and the English speaking urban audiences are bolder. One had the pleasure of watching the 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.
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 kismet, perhaps bad karma in the past, that has resulted in kisses being such misses in this great nation.
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