Sociocultural Constructions of Sexuality in South Asia

Item Girls and Objects of Dreams: Why Indian Censors Agree to Bold Scenes in Bollywood Films


Abstract


The article presents the social background, which helped Bollywood film industry to develop the so-called “item numbers”, replace them by “dream sequences”, and come back to the “item number” formula again. The songs performed by the film vamp or the character, who takes no part in the story, the musical interludes, which replaced the first way to show on the screen all elements which are theoretically banned, and the guest appearances of film stars on the screen are a very clever ways to fight all the prohibitions imposed by Indian censors.

Censors found that film censorship was necessary, because the film as a medium is much more popular than literature or theater, and therefore has an impact on all people. Indeed, the viewers perceive the screen story as the world around them, so it becomes easy for them to accept the screen reality and move it to everyday life. That’s why the movie, despite the fact that even the very process of its creation is much more conventional than, for example, the theater performance, seems to be much more “real” to the audience than any story shown on the stage. Therefore, despite the fact that one of the most dangerous elements on which Indian censorship seems to be extremely sensitive is eroticism, this is also the most desired part of cinema. Moreover, filmmakers, who are tightly constrained, need at the same time to provide pleasure to the audience to get the invested money back, so they invented various tricks by which they manage to bypass censorship. The most widely used ways to trick the censors are movie songs, so often underestimated, especially in the West, which however are not, as some would like to see them, only an unnecessary addition.

Bollywood films are often called musicals, but the examples show that all the songs, not only item numbers and dream sequences, play quite a different role in Indian movies than in the classic Hollywood musicals. There is a very deep logic lying behind film production, and popular Indian cinema uses its songs to show everything that is impossible to show in the story. Filmmakers know very well that songs are the element of fantasy, which when used in a story about everyday life, can show things that are impossible in natural experience.

Keywords

Bollywood; songs; dance; eroticism; body; pleasure; prohibition

Full Text:

PDF


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13135/1825-263X/2259

References


Beaster-Jones, Jayson. 2009. “Evergreens to Remixes: Hindi Film Songs and India's Popular Music Heritage.” Ethnomusicology 53.3: 425–448.

Bhaskar, Ira, Allen Richard. 2009. Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema. New Delhi: Tulika Books.

Bhowmik, Someswar. 2012. Cinema and Censorship. The Politics of Control in India. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan.

Bose, Derek. 2005. Bollywood uncensored. What you don’t see on the screen and why. New Delhi: Rupa.

Bose, Nandana. 2010. “The Central Board of Film Certification Correspondence Files (1992-2002): A Discursive Rhetoric of Moral Panic, “Public” Protest, and Political Pressure.” Cinema Journal 49.3: 67-87.

Chatterji, Shoma A. 1998. Subject: Cinema, Object: Woman. A Study of the Portrayal of Women in Indian Cinema. Calcutta: Parumita Publications.

Chowskey, Jayaprakash. 2012. Mahatma Gandhi & Cinema, transl. Meenal Baghel. Mumbai: Morya Arts.

Ganti, Tejaswini. 2009. “The Limits of Decency and the Decency of Limits. Censorship and the Bombay Film Industry.” In Censorship in South Asia. Cultural Regulations from Sediction to Seduction, edited by Raminder Kaur and William Mazzarella, 87-122. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University.

Gopal, Sangita, Sen Biswarup. 2008. “Inside and out: song and dance in Bollywood cinema.” The Bollywood Reader, edited by Rajinder Dudrah and Jigna Desai, 146-157. Berkshire: Open University Press.

Gupta, Charu. 2007. “Visual Pleasures for the Female Gaze.” Economic and Political Weekly 42.50: 19–20.

Majumdar, Neepa. 2010. Wanted Cultured Ladies Only! Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s–1950s. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Kabir, Nasreen Munni. 2001. Bollywood. The Indian Cinema Story. London: Channel 4 Books.

Lipka-Chudzik, Krzysztof. 2009. Bollywood dla początkujących. Warszawa: Prószyński i S-ka.

Mehta, Monika. 2012. Censorship and Sexuality in Bombay Cinema. Ranikhet: Permanent Black.

Mohammed, Khalid. 1997. “Sex Seriously. The complete story of Mira Nair’s Kama Sutra.” Filmfare 1: 28–34.

Mooij, Thessa. 2006. “The New Bollywood: No Heroines, No Villains.” Cinéaste 31.3: 30-35.

Mulvey, Laura. 2009. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Visual and Other Pleasures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 14–27.

Pinto, Jerry. 2006. Helen. The Life and Times of the H-Bomb. New Delhi: Penguin Books.

Ramamurthy, Priti. 2006. “The Modern Girl in India in the Interwar Years: Interracial Intimacies, International Competition, and Historical Eclipsing.” Women's Studies Quarterly 34.1/2. The Global & the Intimate: 197–226.

Sharma, Attam. 1992. “Sex Appeal. It’s What Keeps The Stars Twinkling!” Cine Advance 10.1: 3.

Shankar, Vijay N. 1966. “Dance in Cinema. Gimmick or Necessity?” Filmfare 15.4, Issue 8, 23–25.

Shresthova, Sangita. 2011. It Is All About Hips? Around the World with Bollywood Dance. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Sinha, Amisha. 2005. Filmfare 12: 143.

Somaaya, Bhawana, Kothari Jigna, Madangarli Supriya. 2012. Mother, Maiden, Mistress. Women In Hindi Cinema, 1950 – 2010. New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers India.


Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


ISSN: 1825-263X

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.