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Sexuality in Bollywood

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Courtesy: IndiaFM
Monday, September 04, 2006
From the raunchy exploits of Garam Dharam to Garam Masala...Babe, Bollywood has come a l-o-n-g way! If you go by what's heard and read about stars in bed, then you must think they have unbelievable libidos.

Cut to the silver screen....In his recent comedy Garam Masala, Akshay Kumar who in real life loves to be compared with the ageless Dharamji , plays a guy with a roving eye dating 3 airhostesses plus one fiance , plus ...after that I lost count.

Viagra, here he comes.

Akshay says the character isn't metro-sexual but just...sexual! And his appeal cuts across the cultural spectrum. Sania Mirza says she has been an Akshay Kumar fan from the age of 3!!! And hard-nosed TV tycoon Ekta Kapoor goes weak at the knees at the very mention of the 'A' word.

Metro, hetero....Long before these new-age definitions of virility crept up Dharmendra was linged...sorry, linked with almost every actress he worked with. On the sets his cronies (that's what the friends were called during those days) would turn the pages of film glossies and point at various actresses. The garam actor would either nod or shake his head in the negative.

Such amorous anecdotes go well with the image of the True Hero that Bollywood loves to propagate. To Akshay's credit he's at least honest about keeping up with ancient definitions of machismo. When Vishal Bhardwaj had gone to Akshay with Macbeth, the star found the character to be un-heroic. Now that's what I call carrying a Shakespearean tragedy too far!

Some years ago when Rituparno Ghosh offered the neo-Dharam the role of a gay man, Akshay baulked. Poor Ritu went scampering home to Calcutta while we in Bollywood had to wait for the non-star Actor Sanjay Suri to play the first homosexual hero in Onirban's My Brother Nikhil.

Sign of Hindi cinema finally maturing? Let's not uncork champagne bottles as yet. It would take maybe another millennium for Hindi film heroes to actually delve into themes of dark, alternate sexuality.

"That's because a majority of the audience believes its heroes to be what they portray on screen. I don't blame Akshay or Sanjay Dutt for wanting to be politically correct in their definitions of masculinity on screen. Though I must admit Sanjay has been redefining his muscle power recently in the films of Vidhu Vinod Chopra," says Hansal Mehta who's just completed an extra-marital thriller about "real people" with "real sexual appetites" called Anjaan.

Before we forget...Dharmendra was the first superstar of Bollywood who took his shirt off on screen ...Others in those times wouldn't dare. Paunch showed. Then there was Feroz Khan who was the first one to get into a bathing suit on screen. Luckily there was a beach around. Nowadays they strip without or without aqueous props.

It's exciting to see the changing sexual mores onscreen. But..off it? Come off it! By and large our film heroes remain inhibited by their images. They would rather be defined by their publicists' wisdom than the persons they are when they peel off their masks at night.

"Problem is, our heroes don't peel off their masks even at nights," a happily married actress told me. "They go on believing they're the Casanovas and Don Juans that they read and see themselves as being even when no camera is watching them. Some of the so-called studs of our industry are actually soggy noodles."

She names one very major star known for his ladies' man reputation and also for regaling his friends with inside details on his score-board. "No one can guess this. But this macho star is a terrible lover." He isn't alone. If we make list with two headings --'Posturing' and 'Prowess' we'll have a Houseful board outside the former flank in no time at all.

There's this notorious case of a young South-based music composer who was closely associated with Ram Gopal Varma for a few years. This man was seen in the company of some of the most stunning actresses in Bollywood. But the ladies' man reputation was punctured when a very sexy very outspoken crooner who tried to form an intimate relationship with the musician, blurted out, "But he can't perform! And since he's not an actor you know what kind of a performance I mean. The sexy dreamy artistic man's image is all in his head, not in bed."

Of course there's the other truth. ..there always is. Some of the most devoted married actors sow their seeds so far and wide we would need an archeologist to trace their chromosomes.

A model-turned-actor who holds his very beautiful wife's hand in all public places has her tacit consent to perform even when the cameras are switched off. "Look, I know my husband is terribly attractive. When he works with these heroines they're bound to throw themselves at him. He'd have to be gay or impotent to turn them down. I know he's neither. Why not just accept the truth about his libido and move on?" she once told a close friend.

But largely the image of the rakish raunchy promiscuous he-man from Bollywood is as big a myth as Mangal Pandey's saucy affair with a prostitute (courtesy Ketan Mehta). It's like the old-man of letters, Khushwant Singh who spoke with a wink about hordes of ladies. But never slept a wink with them.

That's how fiction crept into Bollywood.

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