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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Bollywood's Full Monty

By Zubair Ahmed
BBC correspondent in Bombay

Shot from Oops
Male strippers are causing a stir (picture courtesy of Oops website)
Bollywood in India has long been known for its chaste storylines and traditional song and dance routines.

But now, the Hindi film industry, based in Bombay (Mumbai), is set to release a clutch of daring, sexually-explicit films.

These include Oops, a film about the shadowy world of Indian toy boys or male strippers.

And there are others that focus on the newly self-confident Indian career woman, who is definitely not coy about sex.

But not every one is impressed.

With Bollywood reeling from the worst financial crisis in its history, many believe it's just a money-making gimmick - and bad for traditional Indian family values as well.

Audacious

Oops is the first of the new films to be released.

It's being described as Bollywood's Full Monty.

That's a reference to the raunchy, top-grossing British film about unemployed Yorkshire men who strip to make a living.

Oops director Deepak Tijori
I really thought that it was high time we portrayed India as it is and not just a typical snake charming country
Director Deepak Tijori

The Bollywood version focuses on two young men who turn to stripping to get rich quick.

And for India, it's a great deal more shocking that the strippers are hired by young Indian women.

"I was actually getting a bit tired of watching typical Bollywood films and singing around trees and suddenly actors landing up in New Zealand and Australia singing songs," says Deepak Tijori, who directed Oops.

"I always thought if I made a film then it definitely would be a cutting edge film."

Cutting edge or not, Oops is certainly audacious.

Even though male strippers are not common in India, Tijori claims they do exist: "I bumped into this whole new society which is there in our country and nobody talks about it and that's about male strippers and that's about the socialite, the high society women.

"So then I thought I have to do something and I just have to open the doors which have been kind of closed for a long time."

Strong women

In addition to the bold content, the more aggressive roles for women have caused further controversy.

Mallika Shekhwat and Himanshu Malik
Khwahish or Desire, is also pushing boundaries
The stereotype of the Sari-clad docile Indian woman was first shattered in another film, Jism, which literally means body.

It has a strong Indian woman in the lead role.

She is shown to be upfront about sex, something India doesn't like to talk about.

More important, Jism did relatively well at the box office, says industry analyst Amod Mehra.

Once we lose our character we'll never get it back
Pramod Navalkar
Shiv Sena party
"If you make a small budget film you can't sell it. So, the easiest way to lure the audience and the distributors is to add a little bit of sex to it.

"And with the success of Jism more and more bold films are coming from Bollywood."

Another film, Khwahish, or Desire, has as many as 17 kissing scenes.

'Dirty'

Contrast that with Bollywood's traditional way of dealing with romance.

Shot from Oops
Oops tests Indian stereotypes
(picture courtesy of Oops website)
A bee drinking deep from a flower. Storms and flashes of lightning.

The new films do not hide behind symbols. Traditionalists are outraged.

Pramod Navalkar is a senior member of the right-wing Shiv Sena party.

"I'm not against sex," he says. "You know exploitation of a woman for commercial purpose is not acceptable to our culture, society and our heritage.

"We don't like it. But now they are cultivating the audience which is being diverted to dirty movies - that doesn't fit into our culture and character.

"Once we lose our character we'll never get it back."

'Face the facts'

But Deepak Tijori says Oops and other bold new films are a slice of real life in 21st century India.

"Movies must begin to reflect the changes in attitudes of both men and women," he says.

"It's a denial story I would say for Indian culture and I really thought that it was high time we portrayed India as it is and not just a typical snake charming country which it used to be.

"It's not that any more. I mean, let's face the facts."

But opinion remains divided about whether Bollywood - and its audiences - will consent to go all the way and embrace the new brand of daring cinema.




SEE ALSO:
Bollywood's sexy new trend
08 May 03  |  Entertainment
Bollywood reels as fans mutiny
05 May 03  |  South Asia
Bollywood struck by horror
23 Apr 03  |  Business
Bollywood enters digital age
12 Mar 03  |  Technology


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