Monday, July 8, 2013

Sexuality in Bollywood: Evolution of Female Desire Part One


Indian Sexuality Zeenat Aman is Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sundaram
As vamps dissolved in popular cinema, the lead heroines’ sexual identity was given more space to evolve. The heroine was stuck in between being modest and being sensual. Essentially, she had to be sensual enough to lure the audience in, but not too sensual or she would seem to be an unfit companion for the honorable hero.  Zeenat Aman beautifully expresses the duality of modesty and sensuality in her role in Satyam Shivam Sundaram [1978]. Aman is a quiet village girl that although initially rejected by her husband, remains a dutiful wife. As the daughter of a Hindu priest, she is also depicted as a virtuous woman who spends a majority of her time visiting and maintaining a Hindu temple. However, her religious devotion is given dichotomy of both virtue and sensuality.  Aman also presents her sexuality in her general appearance. She wears traditional saris, but wears no blouse underneath, leaving her breasts visibly veiled under thin cloth. However, Aman’s  religious, obedient wife persona, balances her refined sensuality. This heightened sense of the heroine’s sexuality has been taken further in modern Bollywood movies.

Indian Sexuality Zeenat Aman is Satyam Shivam Sundaram GIF Bollywood BlouseCompared to modern Bollywood films, Zeenat Aman’s sexuality in Satyam Shivam Sundaram seems subtle. It has been more acceptable for leading ladies to both express their carnal desires very openly. Unlike Aman, they were no longer mainly objects of sexual desire, but possessed a sexual desire of their own. This sexual expression of the heroine has been tactfully addressed in some contemporary films, such as blockbuster The Dirty Picture [2011]. The biopic starring Vidya Balan is inspired by the life of the infamous South Indian sex symbol, Silk Smitha. This audacious poster matched the audacity exhibited in the film itself.

The Dirty Picture has dual layers of sexuality. The first layer is her sensual image in her films, and the second layer is her personal relationships with men in the film industry. Balan has romantic relationships with all three men, and intimate relationships with two of the three. She jumps from one brother’s bed to the next, hoping to find love and acceptance. Sexuality both fueled and destroyed Balans’s career in The Dirty Picture. She is in continual pursuit to find her soulmate, but all she receives is lustful men who believe she is like racy image she portrays onscreen. By the time she realizes she loves Hashmi, a man who appreciate her for mind and body, it is too late. Even though this film is not abundant with much vivid sexual imagery, it achieves an intelligent portrayal of the pursuit of love and happiness.
Vidya Balan "The Dirty Picture" GIF Emraan Hashmi Bollywood Sexuality
Vidya Balan "The Dirty Picture"

Recent films, like The Dirty Picture and Jism,  have been able to express females as not only  being an object of desire, but having their own desires and acting upon them. Filmmakers like Mahesh and Pooja Bhatt have included several elements of female sexuality in their films, that will be discussed in my later article. What do you think of Bollywood's evolution of female desire? Do you think that Bollywood is becoming too westernized, or is Bollywood evolving as society becomes more modernized and submits to the changing social norms?



Look for more of Sexuality in Bollywood Series in the Future.
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