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An innocent peck on the cheek or a bold kiss on the lip on the screen is no longer something which can scandalize the viewer – By Jyothi Venkatesh

The new crop of actresses today may not be brazen but are certainly bolder than the earlier coy actresses who were content running around the trees to show their affection for their leading men.

With brevity as the mantra these days, film heroines have started shedding not only their clothes but also their inhibitions and are ready to do cross frontiers when it comes to displaying their love or even unbridled lust for their beloveds.

It was unthinkable even two decades ago for heroines who had star status to indulge in smooching on the screen.

Of course a Madhuri Dixit in Dayavan or a Dimple Kapadia in Sagar could get away with a passionate lip lock but even as far as they were concerned, it was a strict no no to smooching, till Rani Mukerjee took the bold step of smooching Kamal Haasan in Hey Raam.

Recently Rani went one step ahead. She didn’t hesitate to kiss even Amitabh Bachchan on the lip in Black because the script demanded the act. And she had also smooched Abhishek Bachchan her co-star in Bunty Aur Babbli.

Preity Zinta lent dignity to the smooch in Salaam Namaste in which Saif Ali Khan was the lucky recipient of her smooch.

Considering that Preity didn’t think at all that it was a big deal when it came to asking him whether he was a virgin in Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se, the smooching sequences with Saif in Salaam Namaste didn’t elicit wolf whistles or cat calls amongst the audience since director Siddharth Anand had shot them aesthetically.

Today Emraan Hashmi flaunts a T Shirt, which has Serial Kisser written on it and revels in being labeled as the smooching actor, with his smooching sequences in Murder with Mallika Sherawat, Aashiq Banaya Aapne with Tanshree Dutta and Jawani Diwani with Celina Jaitley.

The smooching sequences in Neil & Nikkie between Uday Chopra and Tanisha also blended with the background for the simple reason that there was a great deal of bonhomie and amazing chemistry between the lead players which enabled them to shed their inhibitions with a gay abandon.

The fact that both Uday and Tanisha were young also helped a lot in lending credence to the impact of the smooching sequences.

However not all the new actresses today are ready to go ahead and do smooching sequences.

Take for instance Ayesha Takia. She had the gumption to say No to Yash Chopra when she was offered the role, which ultimately went to Tanisha in Yashraj Films Neil & Nikkie. Says Ayesha, as a matter of fact.

“It is nice to do roles with your dignity in tact. I cannot do films, which require me to display my skin unabashedly. I do not think I am ready to do a Chameli. I said No to Yash Chopra when I was offered Niel & Nikkie because I did not want to do the hot smooching sequences in the film and prance around in a skimpy bra all around the beach.

I do movies, which I believe in. I do not at all aspire to be the No 1 actress in Bollywood by hook or crook”.

Payal Rohatgi who sashayed her way through sleazy flicks like Tauba Tauba, Men Not Allowed, Fun etc asserts that the trend at the box office today is to go for films with bold and shocking themes.

She adds without mincing words. “I like to play real characters with shades. I’d like to do roles which complement my glamorous image, like I did in Subhashji’s 36 China Town directed by Abbas-Mustan.

At the end of the day, when you do smooching sequence it is just yet another facet to my character and does not reflect me as an individual.”

Payal feels that every actress in the 50’s and 60’s wanted to be either a Madhubala or a Nutan because the industry wasn’t willing to take on experiments. “Nudity is a part of the learning process as far as an actor is abroad.

Our level of exposure isn’t that large even though we come from a sexual background of gods, goddesses and Khajuraho.”

Payal also confesses that it is definitely not flattering to be dubbed a sex symbol. “ I am more than just flesh and blood, though at the same time I’d not hesitate to say that I love the way I look.

I do not like the scrutiny behind the tag of the sex symbol. Whether I do a lip-lock sequence or a passionate smooch on the screen, it is high time that people started looking beyond that aspect of mine.”

Sonali Kulkarni who is known to the Hindi film audiences with her role in Dil Chahtha Hai twenty years ago,may have a holier than though image as far as Marathi and evcen Hindi films are concerned, but she has done an intimate smooching sequence with aplomb in an Italian film called Fire At My Heart in which she has played not an Indian but an Italian who lives in an Island and picks up corals and pearls.

It is based on a true story. Sonali who as an actor believes in giving her 100% best to the characters that she sets out to play, is an actress made of sterner stuff.

She believes in going by the demand of the script and merging with the character, which in any case, is the hallmark of any good actor.

In Kalpana Lajmi’s Chingaari Sushmita Sen played a sex worker who is exploited by the village priest or Panda as he is called, a role-played by Mithun Chakraborty.

According to Sushmita who has done a passionate smooching sequence in the film with her co-star Anuuj Sawhney, which had snowballed into a big controversy, Chingari isn’t at all a ‘today’ film on any count.

“ When I agreed to be a part of the project, I asked Kalpana whether she was sure that I was suitable for the role of Basanti, the hard-core sex worker and she said that she would work on the role.

What I liked about her as a director is that she told me that it does not excite her to cast an actress according to his or her image .”

Sushmita admits that she did feel very bad when Anuuj Sawhney who played the postman opposite her in Chingaari chose to seek publicity by using their lip-locking scene in Chingari to garner publicity for himself. Sushmita adds.

“My tolerance level is high. I felt bad because Kalpana as a director has not made fun of sex workers in her film.

The photo with Anuuj’s quotes was disrespectful. I did not want to be part of this sort of marketing strategy, which could only end up giving wrong signals to the viewers that it is a sleazy film. I think Anuj was childish though his intention was not wrong.”

All said and done, Indian Cinema is growing. At a time when globalization and corporatisation have both become the big mantras in Bollywood, Hindi Cinema has come of age and the day will not be far away when it can compete with the best of world cinema and leave its own huge impact globally, like Hollywood Cinema today.