Is erotic publicity misleading filmgoers?

One of the main reasons "Paap" failed at the box office was because it was projected as a steamy film but actually centred on the conflict between a religious father and his free spirited daughter.

Even as director Pooja Bhatt protested feebly about "Paap" not being another skin flick like "Jism", the hoardings of "Paap" showed a bare backed debutante actress Udita Goswami snuggling up to a bare-chested John Abraham.

The provocative shot of the two, however, was not to be seen in the film.

No one was happy with the projection of "Paap" as a passion play. Its failure can be attributed mainly to the misleading publicity.

Another commendable film that suffered because of misleading publicity was Pritish Nandy Communications' "Chameli", directed by Sudhir Mishra.

The promotions and provocative blurbs -- especially the seductive catch line, 'saab, kya irada hain, chalna hain kya' (sir, what are your intentions, do you want to go) -- made the aesthetic venture seem like an erotic product.

Many movie experts believe "Chameli" would've done better had it not been projected in an erotic light.

Says producer Gaurang Doshi: "You can't hoodwink the audience into believing they're going to watch another film. Nowadays the audiences know exactly what to expect. My film 'Deewaar: Let's Bring Our Heroes Home' is an action film.

"Though it's got an actress, Amrita Rao, in the lead I'm projecting it as a film starring 'heroes', namely Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt and Akshaye Khanna. If my film was about women, sex and glamour, I'd call it, 'Let's Bring Our Heroines Home', or something along those lines."

Another film that seems to have fallen into the same trap is Aruna Raje's "Tum".

A film about a bored housewife (Manisha Koirala) who suffers the consequences of a one-night-stand, "Tum' is being promoted as a steamy, seductive story.

While on one hand its director Aruna Raje protests that the film isn't soft porn, all the publicity machinery suggests the contrary.

Says Manisha: "'Tum' is certainly not a sleazy film like 'Ek Choti si Love Story'. Raje is a very sensitive director. The love scenes have been shot very aesthetically."

Apparently the film's publicists asked the leading actress to let it be promoted as a venture far more steamy than it actually is.

Sighs Manisha: "It's really sad that films need to be sold to the audience at any cost. We're going through desperate times and we need to resort to desperate remedies. I guess once a film gets audiences interested, then it can get down to telling the truth."

But the question is, would audiences be interested in watching sleaze packaged as mainstream cinema?

If after "Jism", Pooja Bhatt hadn't gone sinfully suggestive from the title itself, "Paap" might have found its target audience.

And Raje, who earlier made a sensitive film on adultery, "Rihaee", wouldn't be looking the other way while the publicity machinery subverted her new film.