Is adultery Bollywood's new favourite formula?

In Vishal Bhardwaj's "Maqbool", Tabu plays a mistress to a powerful don and has an affair with his stooge.

After seducing the don's underling (Irfan Khan), Tabu entices him to kill her lover benefactor in the film that is a take on Shakespeare's "Macbeth".

In Aruna Raje's forthcoming release, "Tum: A Dangerous Obsession", Manisha Koirala plays a bored housewife who pays for the sins of her one-night stand when the lover (Karan Nath) turns obsessive.

Raje made another film about an adulterous wife many years ago. In the bold "Rihaee", Hema Malini was Vinod Khanna's lonely wife in the village who had an affair with passer by Naseeruddin Shah while her husband worked in the city.

The film and its mature handling of the theme of adultery echoed Kalpana Lajmi's "Ek Pal", where Shabana Azmi played Naseeruddin Shah's inert wife who came alive when her former lover impregnated her.

The woman, seen as the traditional homemaker, has intermittently been put in adulterous situations in films that wear their badges of boldness like medals.

One such recent film was Deepak Tijori's "Oops", where Mita Vashisht played Kiran Kumar's alcoholic wife who goes out and has an affair with a male stripper (Kiran Janjani). The stripper turns out to be her son's best friend!

The adulteress isn't an esoteric offbeat phenomenon. Taking a cue from the bold and trend setting B.R. Chopra film "Gumrah" in the 1960s, where Mala Sinha continued to see her lover Sunil Dutt even after marriage, Dharamesh Darshan's forthcoming "Bewafaa" features Kareena Kapoor as the wife torn between her husband Anil Kapoor and lover Akshay Kumar.

Sanjay Gupta's "Musafir", which will release at the year-end, goes even further.

Sameera Reddy plays a bored small-town housewife who has torrid affairs with three drifters played by Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor and Suniel Shetty.

The lovemaking scenes are so hot they drove Priyanka Chopra right out of the project.

Apparently, Hindi cinema is shedding not just clothes but also skin as far as the traditional image of the Hindi film heroine is concerned.

Films like "Tum...", "Bewafaa", "Musafir" and Karan Razdan's "Hawas" allow the female protagonist to move away from the sanctity of marriage.

Indian soaps on television also appear to be enamoured of the amorous strain in a woman's marriage. In Sahara's soap "Zindagi Teri Meri Kahani", a wife plans to kill her devoted husband in collusion with a terrorist.

In Star Plus's "Kasauti Zindagi Kay", the wanton Komolika plots with an entrepreneur behind her husband's back. In Zee's "Astitwa: Ek Prem Kahani", a wife finds her male colleague's shoulder to be more sympathetic than her husband's.

The men aren't getting left behind either.

In two forthcoming feature films, "No Entry" and "Masti", a group of roving-eyed men lust after the forbidden fruit outside marriage.

Are we entering a new phase in popular art where marriage is, for now, no longer the sacred institution it was meant to be?

Not quite.

"I'm bored and I'm out," said Manisha Koirala to husband Aamir Khan in Mansoor Khan's "Akele Hum Akele Tum". At the end she repented and returned. In "Tum", she "slips" and sleeps with another man and is traumatised thereafter.

The on screen Indian woman may be shedding her skin. But at the end of the day she doesn't really believe in breaking the conventional mould.