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Is nudity new to Indian cinema?

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When I was a young schoolgirl, my parents used to be very careful of watching movies with us on TV or in the theatre. They used to read revives of the movies, and two decades ago even in film revivals, the reviewer used to mention that the movie is worth watching with family, it is clean.

Let it be the films in the 70s or 80’s it all began with Raj Kapoor movies where actresses never hesitated to go semi-nude justifying their roles. Thereafter the advertisement era introduced nudity with Milind Soman and his then rumoured love affair Madhu Sapre posed nude for a steamy print advertisement for Tuff shoes back in 1995, which eventually led to a lot of controversies. We used to feel shy to watch these ads.  

Veteran actresses like Vaijayanti Mala to Mandakini, all these actresses were not only erotic but semi nudes in Raj Kapoor films. 

Bollywood actresses are not far behind in intensifying their character with bold and nude scenes. Bollywood Actresses going naked was never an impossible thing, but nowadays it’s almost becoming a part of mainstream cinema. Be it in the form of an art movie, or a down-right trickery movie, actresses are finding reasons to come into the limelight by shedding their inhibitions to suit the demands of the script.

In Raj Kapoor’s flick Mera Naam Joker (1970), Simi played a small role as Rishi Kapoor’s teacher Mary. However, Simi bared it all to display her bold attitude. During this era, the Indian Censor Board did not really allow kissing scenes. But Simi broke all the barriers, paving an easy way for future Bollywood actresses. Simi confesses to the Times of India that her westernized upbringing did not help her fit into the industry during those times.

Mandakini’s waterfall scene in Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili has become a benchmark and a reference point for any heroine who has thereafter gone under the waterfall in Bollywood. The white piece of clothing, and the only thing draped around Mandakini’s body, went transparent under the gushing water and brought to displayed more than expected.

The Bollywood’s ‘Laila’ Zeenat Aman’s wet reincarnation of a white sari draped in Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) where she is generously showing her breasts, stole the show. Apart from revealing her assets, she was comfortable showing off her skin in various other films. Zeenat also began the trend of kissing scenes in Indian cinema.

Going forward in her career, Rekha willingly gave hot scenes in a few movies. In Ghar (1979), Rekha (Aarti Chandra) and Vinod Mehra (Vikas Chandra) spice up the chemistry with some steamy scenes. Rekha also went on to play the role of a temptress in Utsav (1984). Utsav movie saw the gorgeous Rekha playing the role of a temptress. A period drama, Utsav is an adaptation of a Sanskrit drama called ‘Mrichchhakatika’. The story is about a courtesan and her chance to meet with a poor Brahmin man in Ujjain. The movie got a lot of rave reviews for the perfect depiction of sexuality, sensuality and seduction. The story is about Rekha (Vasantsena) falling in love with a poor Brahmin going by the name of Charudutt (Shekhar Suman). Produced by Shashi Kapoor, the film saw some sensuous and bold scenes between the two protagonists.

In Basu Bhattacharya’s Aastha, Rekha had the role of a middle-aged housewife who becomes a prostitute to fulfil a materialistic lavish life. She courageously delivered some heart-thumping scenes with Om Puri and Navin Nischol. Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi (1996) and Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996) also saw Rekha in bold avatars.

Dusky beauty Anu Agarwal was once a dream for the men in town. This Bollywood actress became an overnight sensation with her debut film Aashiqui (1990). In 1994, she was a part of a short Indo-German film, The Cloud Door. The movie saw Anu going topless in one of the scenes. She took this brave step with an expectation to stand out of the box. Mallika Sherawat is a bold actress from Haryana. Her presence in the Bollywood film industry came with much criticism and apprehensions, particularly for the roles she had taken up. With record-breaking seventeen kissing scenes in Khwahish (2003), the sexy actress shows her comfort level by displaying passionate love on-screen. The seductive actress gave it all for her stint in the Hollywood movie Hisss (2010). She went nude more than once in the movie.

There was also a phase where parallel and contemporary cinema was at its peak, Shyam Benegal was king of such movies, his movies used to have bold content. But that era aggressively took over by hardcore commercial cinema. Tarachand Badjyata’s typical family movies. Then came Yashraj films, Yash Johar films, and the Indian audience had a thrilling time. But a new breed of directors like Anurag Basu and Anurag Kashyap made it into reality cinema, going beyond the censorship parameters.

In modern times, these Bollywood actresses have played a pivotal role in depicting nudity and picturing acts relating to love, male dominance or pure lust. The Indian Censor Board has shown liberal views especially towards lip-locks, women showing more skin, stripping, sensuality and sexuality. The tug of war to showcase nudity on screen in India continued to such an extent that they went beyond boundaries while showing sex or lust scenes. Most of the topics relating to social stigma revolve around women. Some issues demand nudity to express the situation more aptly.

But looking at OTT platforms, each heroine is now willing to go nude, if not in the movie they are using their private and social media platforms to show their body and acts. Bikini and swimming suits are very common, topless pictures are even more random, there are actresses who are posting their nudity openly, in such an era how can one really differentiate between erotica and porn?

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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