From Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), Utsav (1984), Anubhav (1986) and Kama Sutra (1996) to the more recent Jism (2003) and Murder (2004), you can hardly call erotica novel in our films. Yet, Bollywood still has the reputation of being prudish when it comes to sex, or erotica.
But, in the last few years, we’ve seen a fair bit of it. After Shilpa Shukla played a bored housewife who seduces a college-goer in BA Pass (2013), the following year saw Sunny Leone star in the ‘horrex’, Ragini MMS 2 (2014). Then, Rahul Bagga played a sex author in Mastram (2014), and Surveen Chawla and Jay Bhanushali shared steamy scenes in Hate Story 2 (the 2014 sequel to the 2012 erotic thriller, Hate Story).
This year, four erotic films — Ek Paheli Leela, One Night Stand, Kamasutra 3D and XXX — are up for release. And while promotions for some of them are underway — and they range from bold to seriously risqué — there are stumbling blocks. With a reshuffle of censor board members, and a new diktat being issued regarding the use of expletives, clearances may be hard to come by. Even the Hollywood film, Fifty Shades Of Grey — which was set for a Valentine’s Day release — is yet to get the required certification.
Despite us trying to reach three members of the Central Board Of Film Certification for comment, they all declined to share their views on the censorship of such films. But filmmakers insist it’s a good time to explore the genre.
Is the audience ready?
Ekta Kapoor, who backed Love Sex Aur Dhokha (LSD; 2010) and the Ragini MMS series, feels people are ready for such content. "Young adults understand young content. And erotica is nothing to be ashamed of," says the producer, who is gearing up for the release of XXX.
Likewise, Bhushan Kumar is producing Ek Paheli Leela, which stars Sunny in a sensuous role. He says, "As a production house, it’s essential for us to work on different genres. And erotica is a fine art, which has clicked with viewers so far."
Sherlyn Chopra in Kamasutra 3D
When some clips of Kamasutra 3D — featuring a scantily clad Sherlyn Chopra — hit the Internet last year, it generated interest and outrage. But director Rupesh Paul is unfazed: "Erotica is the genre I portray best because it’s my forte, not because it sells. People will either like, or dislike it, but I don’t really care about that," he says.
On the other hand, Anshuman Jha, who played an aspiring director in LSD, feels audience acceptance has a lot to do with aesthetics. "Erotica is popular around the world, and even though we were always fascinated by it, we’re accepting it only now," he says, adding, "The quality of stories is improving, so the audience base is increasing. Even the titles — LSD and XXX — are getting sexier."
Even as erotica as a genre finds more takers on the big screen, Ajay Bahl, who directed BA Pass (2013), warns that just having sex scenes in a film makes it "hollow". He explains, "It starts to get interesting when they are infused with emotions of seeking and desire, and when lust becomes an obsession."
Sunny Leone, who’s had many of her films under the censor board’s scanner, feels such content shouldn’t be given too much thought. "Everyone has the right to hold on to their culture and ideology, but it’s just a movie. What you see on screen is all fiction, so it shouldn’t be taken too seriously," says the actor.
Sunny Leone in Jism 2
According to director Ken Ghosh, erotic films eventually are a reflection of today’s times. "Films are a mirror of our society. Today, even more than before, we need that mirror to be a true reflection," he says, stressing on the need to communicate to the average viewer that ‘sex’ is not a dirty word.
But how do filmmakers deal with censors who may not share their vision, and suggest cuts and changes? Ekta says that when she takes her final product to the Board for approval, she deals with them with "love and not war". Bhushan Kumar, too, adds that he always "abides by the rules of the censor board" as a responsible citizen and producer.
Even in cases of censorship causing monetary damage, filmmakers say they accept the modifications. Ajay, whose film might have made more money if it didn’t release with an A certificate, and would get better satellite rights, too, says, "They refused to give BA Pass a U/A certificate citing it to be thematically adult, and I agreed with their verdict."
Rupesh adds that while filmmakers don’t have an option but to accept the censor board’s mandate, he feels the mindset in India — where there’s a hue and cry over small changes — needs to change. He says, "If the censors wants to chop off scenes, they will do so. I cannot make them change their minds."