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Strip for me, baby!

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Monday, May 4, 2009 - 10:15
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

“Since we were born naked, it is an art, and it’s just showing a beautiful body that God created.” – Swimsuit supermodel Joanna Krupa quoting Pope John Paul on nudity.

Nudity in Indian cinema has always been a debatable subject. The traditional Indian audiences were never treated to the full frontal nude scenes of prominent Bollywood actors or actress fearing widespread criticism from the society and the wrath of the moral brigade.

However, with the passage of time and due to western influences, some tectonic changes are being witnessed in the mainstream Hindi cinema, wherein our budding actors are more than eager to shed their clothes just for the sake of the art of film making.

Actor Neil Nitin Mukesh dropping his pants in reality film-maker Madhur Bhandarkar’s latest flick called ‘JAIL’ is an indication that Bollywood is opening up, the actors, precisely the male ones, are coming out of closet and shedding their inhibitions.

One would ask why so much fuss about something which is very common in the West. In the Western countries or more precisely in Hollywood, stripping for a commercial ad shoot or a film is not viewed with much-hyped curiosity. It is a routine affair in the West where A-list film stars and celebrities take pride in flaunting their flawless bodies. They grace the cover pages of prestigious tabloids and magazines sometimes for the promotion of a brand or sometimes for publicity, which can revive their fortunes.

This is not the first time that any known Indian actor or celebrity has posed naked for a commercial, photo shoot or for promoting a film. A trip down the memory lane will help you recall how in the past Protima Bedi, Simi Garewal, Madhu Sapre, Mamta Kulkarni, Pooja Bhatt, Puja Bedi, Milind Soman, Zeenat Aman, Mandakini etc exposed to varying degrees for various reasons.

They all supposedly made progressive statements advocating the viewpoint that one is free to express oneself how one wants.

However, all of these have courted controversies and faced legal battles for unnecessarily imitating the western culture just in the name of women’s liberty.

It is clear that in most of the cases there were these pretty girls, who stood naked in front of the lens, except Milind Soman, who dared to bare all along with model Madhu Sapre for an ad campaign aimed at promoting ‘Tuffs’ shoe brand.

It is probably for the first time that a known Bollywood actor has chosen to do a nude scene citing the demand of the script and started a new trend.

Renowned author Salman Rushdie’s ex-wife and super model Padma Lakshmi recently posed naked for the prestigious Allure magazine. Padma Lakshmi, who is the author of a cookbook and show host, posed naked with four other celebrities in the US magazine.

In December 2008, Titanic star Kate Winslet posed in just platform heels and a front open white overcoat for Vanity Fair. The Vanity Fair’s issue carrying Winslet’s centrefold was released just ahead of the release of her latest movies ‘The Reader’ and ‘Revolutionary Road’. ‘The Reader’ later fetched Winslet the Academy Award in the best actress category.

Similarly, Brad Pitt’s ex-wife Jennifer Aniston adorned the cover of GQ magazine wearing just a necktie. That too coincided with the release of her film ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’.

There is a never ending list of Hollywood celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Sharone Stone, Demi Moore, Meg Ryan, Catherine Zeta Zones, Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, Lindsay Lohan, Carmen Electra who have showed their curvaceous bodies for money and for publicity.

However, the case has been different with our tinsel town babes, who have so far avoided full frontal exposure for promoting their films.

In the recent times, Indian audiences have readily accepted and adjusted to the onscreen kissing scenes thereby providing Bollywood some opportunity to experiment further.

So what does it mean? Is Bollywood readying for more nudity in the days to come? Whether a new genre of Indian film directors will dare to do some bold projects on the lines of Bernardo Bertolucci (The Dreamers), Roman Polanski (Bitter Moon), Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut) Catherine Breillat (Anatomy of the Hell) to name a few.

The culture of flashing boobs, intentionally wearing see-through outfits, and engineered wardrobe malfunctions have all been publicity gimmicks of the Western bigwigs. But Indian celebs have been modest enough to cover up their well-toned bodies while in public.

So what if the same trend starts here in India? Indians have had a deep fascination for controversial Hollywood movies full of sensuality. We have all loved watching these flicks in private, but have never publicly accepted our fondness for them.

Can any one forget the stir created by Sharon Stone’s ‘Basic Instinct’ or the famous striptease act by Demi Moore? The popularity of Hollywood movies in our country is an indicator of our acceptance of nudity.

The question here is that up to what extent the Indian Censor Board, the moral policing groups and the Indian audiences will tolerate films showcasing nudity.

Even in the ultra modern western society, there is a clear cut demarcation between pornography and nudity, so will we make a distinction between the two in India as well? Is the Indian viewer mature enough to accept nudity as a part of a film if the script so demands?

No one knows if this trend in Bollywood will add artistic credence or just satiate our hidden lust for watching Indian celebrities pose in the nude. Is it important for the Indians to look at West for every thing it does to be called modern and progressive? It is clearly up to the audiences to decide what is good for them but at the moment they appear to be enjoying the idea of watching their favourite actors stripping on screen.

First Published: Monday, May 4, 2009 - 10:15

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