When the films Monsoon Wedding and Devdas were released they brought the Indian movie industry great international acclaim, but had the opposite impact at home, where Indian audiences are deserting in droves.
Indian movie-goers prefer what they say is real-life drama on offer from western movies, and the rampant sex that often goes with the territory.
Now Bollywood like the rest of Indian society is yielding to pressure from outside influences - influences which some claim are destroying Indian culture.
Adam Mynott reported.
When the films Monsoon Wedding and
Devdas were released, they brought the Indian
movie industry great international acclaim, but
had the opposite impact at home, where Indian
audiences are deserting in droves. Indian
movie-goers prefer what they say is real-life
drama on offer from Western movies, and the
rampant sex that often goes with the territory.
Now Bollywood, like the rest of Indian
society, is yielding to pressure from outside
influences - influences which some claim are
destroying Indian culture. Here's Adam
Always sentimental, always predictable.
Chaste heroines, never been kissed. Pursued
around the mountains by handsome crooners.
But the successful Hindi movie formula is
turning sour. The Bollywood dream factory
now cannot sell its product. Old style Hindi
films are shedding audiences in their
thousands. This industry has sung and danced
its way into deep crisis. But the movie moguls
say they now have the answer. It's up on
hoardings all over Mumbai. An attempt to stop
the Bollywood rot with sex. From three-hour
kiss-free movies to this... The latest release,
Khwahish, marketed around 17 kiss scenes,
packed into 90 minutes.
UNNAMED WOMAN #1:
Go get a condom.
UNNAMED MAN #1:
In conservative India, ground-breaking. This
new, raunchy, no-holds-barred Bollywood is
not just about a fresh way to market films
using sex. It's also a symbol of a new
generation in this country wanting to be more
honest and open about the way they lead their
Please welcome Mallika Sherawat!
The star of Khwahish is on MTV, youth's
global mouthpiece India-style.
Can you dance?
Yes, I can.
You're a Bollywood actress - of course you
The new Bollywood babe, Mallika Sherawat,
is pushing the movie to the new generation in
India, consumers of pop videos, cable TV and
foreign films. It's done with sex appeal.
I want you to seductively devour this apple.
Would you do that for us? I know you are very
comfortable, very, very comfortable with your
No longer the forbidden fruit. Bollywood,
once the realm of the demur woman, now
promotes the one with attitude.
I think Indian society is very biased. They
have different rules for men and different rules
for women. If a guy wants to do anything, he
is called a stud, macho. But if girl even wants
to kiss, she is called a slut. Why should there
be a disparity like this?
The Gulf between Indian and Western social
mores remains wide. The sex in Bollywood
movies is relatively tame. But it is confronting
real issues. It is also running headlong into
sections of the conservative ruling elite who
say it's dragging India down.
(Shiv Sena politician)
We'll be a spoilt community. They will have
no bounds. They will have no limits, like
parental feelings. Whatever sacraments are
there, whatever Indian culture there is, it will
be all lost. That should not happen by way of a
medium which is of a great importance.
So important that anything offensive is not
tolerated. The hard political right believes it's
guardian of Bollywood's moral standards.
Cinema halls showing the film Fire, which
explored lesbian relationships, were smashed
to pieces. The latest crop of raunchy movies
has not inspired such fury. But Indian film
producers are under pressure to push at the
Anything which is not sensuous, which does
not appeal to your glands, will not find takers.
So we need to realise this and we need to
consciously package the films, make them
look more like what the guys in the West are
doing. Otherwise there is a certainty that the
younger lot, which has been brought up on the
MTV Channel culture will just not go into the
halls and buy a ticket.
Bollywood films have given hundreds of
millions of Indians a chance to escape from the
rigours of life, to step back and dream. Deeply
woven into the fabric of modern India,
Bollywood's ties to its audiences have
loosened. It's a struggle now to fill cinema
halls. Universally panned by the critics,
Mallika Sherawat's film has been a sell-out.
People are waiting for something nice, for
something inventive, innovative to come out.
So when if we want to go and see a movie, we
want to see something which is honest which
we can relate to, which has happened in our
lives and stuff like that. We are sick with
fantasy and all that, those old formulas - it's
very boring now.
UNNAMED MAN #2:
Social change is challenging India's traditional
morality. It's a revolution that Bollywood
producers are being compelled to exploit.
This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.