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#Bollywood: The Hindi family film is finally being honest about sex

From sperm donors to erectile dysfunction and women with raw desire, there’s less hypocrisy and more real romance on-screen.

bollywood Updated: Sep 03, 2017 16:19 IST
Roshni Nair
Roshni Nair
Hindustan Times
Shubh Mangal Saavdhan,Ayushmann Khurrana,Bhumi Pednekar
A still from Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, starring Ayushmann Khurrana as a man battling erectile dysfunction.

Jokes erupted about Ayushmaan Khurrana when the official trailer of Shubh Mangal Savdhan (SMS) was released on August 1.

They revolved around the irony of an actor who played a sperm donor in Vicky Donor essaying a man with erectile dysfunction, in director RS Prasanna’s first Hindi film. Khurrana laughed along.

In SMS, Khurrana plays a man struggling to cope in a society where ‘mardaangi’ is a touchstone and erectile dysfunction, a curse.

The film is a remake of Prasanna’s 2013 Tamil hit, Kalyana Samayal Saadham (KSS), and the SMS SMS has been credited with taking a humorous yet sensitive look at erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety.

“Bahut ho gaya, (being) conservative,” says Anand L Rai, producer of SMS. “It’s time we started communicating, within and outside our families.”

Ratna Patha Shah in Lipstick Under My Burkha, which followed four women’s quests for freedom in small-town India.

Hindi films over the past few years have not only become more explicitly expressive than before, whether about health, sexuality or even politics, they are also settings these tale in small towns or villages. Nil Battey Sannata, Anaarkali of Aarah, and Lipstick Under My Burkha are prime examples of big-screen successes that cut through the hypocrisy and faux romanticism of rural or small-town life to expose the raw underpinnings.

“For SMS, I had only two guiding mantras. However bizarre the scene, if I don’t believe that this can happen in real life, then I can’t keep the scene. And I’d imagine how my wife, father, or father-in-law would react in a certain situation,” says Prasanna. “Most slice of life films over the years have had a sense of plausibility. There should never be a scene that tries too hard. ”

Prasanna adds that he knew that if a conservative Tamil Nadu audience could accept KSS, anyone would.

“You now have new kinds of ‘family films’ that can also be enjoyed by today’s generation. People today want cinema to respect them as much as they respect cinema,” he says.

It took Rai’s team six months to change the setting from Chennai to a Delhi-Uttar Pradesh backdrop for SMS and come up with a new script that retained the essence of the original. He maintains that whether an original or an adaptation, there’s a hunger among audiences to be treated to something different. It’s this want, says the filmmaker, that more producers and directors are picking up on.

Ayushmann Khurrana plays a sperm donor in Vicky Donor, alongside Yami Gautam.

“Down the line, you’ll see even more movies like this. As a producer, I’m not bothered by the ‘riskiness’ of a subject as much as I am about the intention behind making such films,” says Rai.

In the age of social media, audiences also communicate more openly with filmmakers and actors about what they’d like to see. So what we call ‘risky’ is actually teamwork between audiences and filmmakers to go for something new and challenging. ”

In an industry that has largely remained faithful to two or three story templates for decade after decade, it’s time for more such ‘teamwork’.

As SMS female lead Bhumi Pednekar puts it: “It’s high time we had more movies that ask questions or challenge prevailing beliefs. This is a generation that wants to leave theatres with a sense of change and no longer wants things to be brushed under the carpet.”

First Published: Sep 02, 2017 21:10 IST