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A Brief History of Bollywood Sex and Romance

A Brief History of Bollywood Sex and Romance (photo)

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You can’t beat the Bollywood classics for their overt romantic tension, where intimate touching (yes, even kissing!) was replaced with the poetic, polite innuendo of hot rain and wet clothing. It’s funny that they’d be so reserved about what happens between consenting adults, considering India is the second most populous country in the world. (We know they’re doing it!) In some ways, however, B’wood has become more relaxed in its attitudes, as younger, Western-influenced generations come of age and make waves in an industry built on tradition. Previously unseen “taboos” like pre-marital sex, onscreen nudity and even wife-swapping have curiously been passed by the Central Board of Film Certification, the strict watchdog equivalent of the MPAA that has served as a censor since the early ’50s. Gathered below is a look at the landmark moments and trends that have raised eyebrows through Bollywood history.

06262009_MughaleAzam.jpgBehind the Steamy Scenes

Screen icons Dilip Kumar and the beautiful Madhubala fell in love both on screen and off in 1951’s “Tarana,” while she was still a teenager. Fearful that Kumar would steal away his breadwinner, Madhubala’s father refused to let her see him or even go on location shooting when the two were signed to co-star in 1957’s “Naya Daur” together. This led to two messy lawsuits, the couple’s dirty laundry aired in court, and an uncomfortable decade-long shoot for 1960’s “Mughal-e-Azam,” during which the break-up occurred. Similarly fueling the gossip mill were speculations over actor-filmmaker Raj Kapoor (see below) and his longtime muse Nargis, which likely helped the box office success of their movies for years. But it doesn’t get more scandalous than when actress Rekha turned up at a 1980 celebrity wedding wearing rings and sindoor (red powder in the part of a woman’s hair, symbolizing marriage), basically announcing her coupling with former screen partner Amitabh Bachchan, who was also in attendance but already married to Jaya Bhaduri. The three even co-starred in 1981’s infidelity triangle drama “Silsila,” which is as weirdly sensational as if the three-headed tabloid monster Brangelinaniston had agreed to star in a quasi-autobiographical film about their relationships.

06262009_Bobby.jpgThe X-Ray Glasses of the Imagination

Victoria’s Secret could’ve made a killing if they’d invested in Bollywood during the ’70s and ’80s, when the appearance of a plain white brassiere represented the forbidden nature of onscreen toplessness. An actress wearing just her over-the-shoulder boulder holder who turned out the lights, for instance, would be implying that she’d soon be showing her breasts to her lover. If anyone realized the power of such clothed titillation, it was Raj Kapoor, whose films began to push the envelope late in his directorial career. His unparalleled 1973 teen romance “Bobby” made an overnight pin-up sensation of Dimple Kapadia when she appeared in a bikini, and 1978’s “Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram” (which faced an uphill battle with the censor board, and was criticized by some as being exploitative) saw Zeenat Aman in a barely-there sari that defied physics by staying on. His final film, 1985’s “Ram Teri Ganga Mali” caused further controversy when 16-year-old star Mandakini appeared bathing in a waterfall, wearing only a sheer white sari that made no attempt to conceal her nipples. Today, bikini babes are far more prevalent in Bollywood culture, and 2000’s “Hera Pheri” even depicted male sunbathers in bikinis, mistaken as girls from a distance by the film’s protagonist.

06262009_dhoom2.jpgLurid Lip Locks

Up until the ’50s, if Bollywood stars wanted to express love or even lust onscreen, clasping each other’s hands and staring longingly was about as risqué as it got. Hugging and light face caressing became the next leap over the following three decades, but it wasn’t until the ’90s that kissing was really acknowledged, let alone done. A woman might lean in for lip service, but would shyly run away before the deal was sealed, or else the actual act would be covered by a veil in the moment before, like some “Austin Powers” gag. While this, too, is changing today (superstar actor Aamir Khan even has a kissing clause put in his co-stars’ contracts; if they won’t kiss him, they can’t act opposite him), puckering up can still be contentious. Padmini Kolhapure made headlines when she merely gave Prince Charles a peck on the cheek, and after Aishwarya Rai smooched Hrithik Roshan in 2006’s “Dhoom 2,” obscenity cases were filed. Most recently, everyone heard about the stir Richard Gere caused in 2007 when he playfully re-enacted his “Shall We Dance?” pose, catching Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty off-guard with a snog during an AIDS awareness benefit. Shetty told the press it wasn’t a big deal; people on the streets of Bhopal burned her posters in effigy anyway.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.