Friday, December 09, 2011

Love me tender?

There is a question I have been wanting to ask for a long time now, particularly of my filmmaker friends: Can you name ten tender love scenes from Hindi films made in the last five years?

Can you? Because I can't. I can't even think of even five. Of course, people's interpretation and judgment might differ, but when I say tender love scenes, the emphasis is not on love scenes. The emphasis is on tenderness. Which involves a measure of gentleness. A certain degree of empathy, even respect.

I remember a time when there was no cable TV. The only films we saw were either black-n-white state-approved films from the 60s and 70s, or some colour flick that stumbled into our little township thanks to the traveling projectionist that wandered past once in every few weeks.

This was a time when there was no kissing on screen. At least not of the lippy kind. There were quaint sprints through gardens and nodding roses, occasionally boy and girl would disappear behind a bush. The rest was left to your imagination. If you were adult enough to guess, well, you guessed.

Then came cable TV. Our local cable-wallah showed Mr India when he had nothing else to show. This was supposed to be clean family entertainment. We all saw it at least half a dozen times. We had Sridevi's wiggling, writhing moves in the rain by heart. I was too young to make sense of the writhing but even I knew that this was seduction of a kind.

Was it tender? I don't know, but it least it was clearly pleasurable for the woman on screen.

Barring these rain-dance sequences, and some athletic, even aerobic kind of moves on grassy slopes, we saw no sexual loving in films. We did see plenty of rape. Or near-rape scenes. Filmmakers took their own sweet time over chases where some poor girl would be running for her life, clothes askew. Or her clothes were being ripped off, and she stood there paralysed by fear, eyes wide, begging for mercy.

When filmi boys wooed girls they tended towards stalking and harassment and when they were shown as wanting to get intimate, they did things like grabbing wrists, pulling a somewhat reluctant girl towards themselves, or trying to kiss her though she kept turning away.

Towards the late 90s, things had begun to change; we saw Hindi films with what we used to call 'French kissing'. Raja Hindustani was an eye-popping revelation for us girl students. We used to think only foreign peoples kissed like this.

Then came the new millennium. There were more and more and more films with love scenes. Impassioned scenes. Kissing scenes. Violent scenes. But where was the tenderness?

I have been watching newer films with a fair degree of concern because when a filmmaker does include a love scene in a Hindi film, it seems shadowed by something unpleasant or negative. Perhaps the story is about unfaithful partners, or about a character's obsessions or just youthful experimentation. Very rarely do we get to see lovers being really tender with each other.

Why does  this bother me so much? Because I do believe that films impact us profoundly. Our imaginations are shaped by what we see. Films are a social, collective experience - mostly approved by families - and now that they come to TV sets so quickly, they are usually a shared family experience. Soaps and reality shows are mostly a de-sexed business, despite the constant references to affairs and pregnancies. But toddlers are getting most of their learning from TV and even if they are shielded from darker, more adult cinema, they will soon be exposed to ideas of love and longing and togetherness via the screen, much before they experience it in their own life.

It has been years since I saw a balanced, equal, gentle kind of intimacy between lovers in Hindi films (there were glimpses of it in the recent Rockstar, which is another reason I liked it). I am worried because what do young boys learn as an appropriate first move? Or young girls? It seems as if stereotypes continue for the most part. Women are often being pushed into bed, or carried there, which kind of reinforces the idea that women are weaker, lighter, and need to be led somehow. And being grabbed by the hair or wrists is not a particularly respectful treatment.

Even in scenes where the woman is shown to be equally eager, the couple seems inflamed by uncontrollable passion so that beds might get broken and clothes get ripped off without pause for thought. And there is room in this world for passion, and then some to spare. But if anything can sustain a romantic relationship, it is our solid, remarkable capacity for gentle love. If a relationship is worth having, it must have some mutual respect and empathy too.

And yet, most films do not bother with this aspect of love, particularly in its physical aspect. Rarely does the camera or the filmmaker's eye pause and rest on gentle intimacy. Go over most major film releases over the last decade and see if even ten percent of Hindi films have imbued their vision of physical intimacy with tenderness.

It is almost as if they are embarrassed by real tenderness. And I wonder why that is. If we are unable to envision it, capture it, savour it, how do we communicate the power of such moments to others, especially to young people?And if we are unable to communicate the one thing that is worth communicating, then what exactly are we communicating instead?

This Blog is part of the Men Say No Blogathon, encouraging men to take up action against the violence faced by women. 
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Pareshaan said...

The concept of love is not accessible to the masses in India. Thus tenderness continues to evade the silver screen. We are a nation where a rape makes more sense than a french kiss.
Given this it's really quite surprising that so many of us manage to build healthy realtionships with the oppsoite sex.

mem said...

what about Abhiskek bachhan and Rani mukerji in Yuva? I dont recall if there was a sex sex scene but some tender bedroom play was there no?
Also parineeta - maybe not tender per se, but all willing and not super overcome by passion style

mem said...

And yes parineeta as a film about love is a little unstomachable, but Im talking only about the parineeta song that I linked which seems to be a nice tender love making scene.

Preeti said...

Band Bajaa Baraat? I loved how it was shot from the build up to the very end. I watched the film with my mother and there was no cringing for either of us.

Anonymous said...

More Mani Ratnam movies have some

shbzr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AMODINI said...

Nicely said. I quite like Rockstar, but there were other films which did this well - Rules, Cheeni Kum, Aisha, Socha na tha, Delhi 6, and if you really go back in time - Prem Rog.

AMODINI said...

And before I forget - there was "Hum dil de chuke sanam", "Pyar ke side-effects" (not tenderness maybe but shows both partners as equals - which is also kind of rare in B'wood) and a humorous film about love threatened - "Main, meri patni aur woh". Saathiya was nice too.

What's nice about these 10 films is that both partners have equality, and some degree of empathy and respect for each other. The female is not someone to be simply "swept off her feet" or someone who does not know her own mind, but a willing, adult, intelligent partner - someone who can make her own decisions.

Pushpz said...

I have noticed that most of the Salman Khan's movies have lovey-dovey scenes but there is not much physical contact, (he hardly ever touches his co-stars)just eyes expressions of Salman Khan makes the scene so romantic....

the cowlick said...

A lot of black & white films were filled with tender (mostly unrequited) love... Although I do see your concern about young children not learning about love and tenderness and equality of women etc from their movies, what's new with that? Aren't our Indian men just in as much danger of being insensitive as their previous generations?

Anonymous said...

Band Baaja Baraat comes to mind instantly. Both of them in their inebriated state, just let themselves go, and it seemed so much more natural than the groping and devouring that emraan hashmi's co-stars go through.

Annie Zaidi said...

Pareshaan: true, esp for those who grew up somewhere in the 70s-90s.
Mem: Yuva did have some nice intimate scenes. Mani Ratnam does those well when he's paying attention. Had a couple of tender love scenes in Roja and Bombay too, which stuck in my memory.
Amodini: I disagree on some of those. Chandni, maybe. But Dilli 6 and Rules? These are examples of nicely done, perhaps different, love stories but if there was any love-making in them, it was not very memorable.
Cowlick: It might not be new. I just felt it had to be reiterated. Earlier, there was restraint in every kind of physical representation on screen, including violence. Now, it is not so much about restraint as a lack of imagination.
Preeti, Anon: Yes, from recent times, Band Baaja Baraat is a good example.
Pushpee: Salman movies usually don't go anywhere with intimacy. There is restraint, yes, but the point of my post is that you can (and should) have love on-screen. Just that it can be shown to be tender and respectful and passionate at the same time.

delhidreams said...

the only one that crops up in my mind is Jodha Akbar. there was an old school tenderness in their lovemaking scene and with Sonu Nigam crooning in the background, it was almost like Rafi sa'b with 'chaudhwin ka chand'

but yes, i agree, tenderness is not much 'paisa-vasool' for our cine makers it seems. maybe it is because of the stereotype that a hero has to be macho and macho men are/should not (be) tender.

Indian Home Maker said...

What I didn't like in Rock Star is how he wooed the girl in the beginning, with harassment which included hiding in her car.

INVENTOR said...

awesome aricle ......... thanks for sharing

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