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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…