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Bollywood's sleazy season begins

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

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Suddenly Bollywood is coming out with films about men and women in their underwear, and even less.

Three decades ago actress Rehana Sultan had created a furore by posing with her legs sprawled into a 'V' for B.R. Ishaara's "Chetna".

Now, in Anurag Basu's "Murder", we see the controversial Mallika Sherawat sunbathing semi-nude with her co-star Asmit Patel.

Do "Murder" and its bare-backed heroine hope to revive the era of the wanton seductress? And how far would this provocative image take the film at the box-office?

Karan Razdan who has so far had no luck as a filmmaker is all set to unleash more skin show in his suggestively entitled film "Hawas". The title was earlier used by Sawan Kumar in a 1974 film where yesteryear vamp Bindu played a nymphomaniac.

Until recently, lovemaking scenes in Hindi films used to feature only the female actor in various states of undress. Now, after the successful stripping of John Abraham in "Jism", the male joins the female in shedding clothes and inhibitions in two steamy releases lined up for the next two weeks.

Even more interesting is the antecedents of the directors behind the two films. "Murder" director Anurag Basu and "Hawas" director Razdan have both had successful innings on television.

Basu directed a number of Ekta Kapoor's most successful soaps, including "Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi", before he waltzed into movies with "Saaya" last year. The frame-by-frame rip-off of Tom Shadyac's "Dragonfly" bombed.

Basu has now borrowed Adrian Lyne's steamy film on adultery, "Unfaithful", as the source-reference for his second feature film. "Murder" is the story of a bored wife who strays into a lustful liaison with a sinister stranger.

Razdan, who was behind the successful detective serial "Tehkikaat" on national television with the late Vijay Anand in the lead, made his first film "Roshni" featuring Milind Soman, Bikram Saluja and newcomer Roshni last year. The film got into serious financial trouble and was shelved for good.

Razdan then hit upon the magic formula - an in-your-face sexiness wrapped in music songs and other ingredients. Whereas "Roshni" found no takers, "Hawas" found instant buyers all over the country. Razdan has now moved on to another steamy triangle called "Girlfriend" about a lesbian relationship.

Deepak Shivdasani, whose conventional love triangle "Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke" bit the dust two years ago, is back in the reckoning with the tale of a prostitute named "Julie".

Again, it will show a bare-backed actress (Neha Dhupia).

Like his colleagues in the race, Shivdasani insists "Julie" isn't a sleazy film. "It's a sensitive depiction of a prostitute's life. I wouldn't want my film to be treated as semi-porn."

But the film market, which is in the doldrums, would insist on projecting films on provocative themes such as adultery and prostitution as food for a lustful mind.

Aruna Raje's "Tum" got itself into a tight budge by refuting its raunchy image before release. The film's publicist who was pulled up by leading lady Manisha Koirala for focussing on the love-making scenes now has the last laugh.

"The fact is the few who came to see the film didn't do so to watch the performances or the direction but for the skin show," says Manisha.

The general belief in the film trade is either a film has to have big stars or naked bodies to get an audience.

Hence this season at the movies is bracketed by "Hawas" and "Murder" on one hand and the Shah Rukh Khan opus "Main Hoon Na" on the other.

There're just no half-measures for the film trade this summer.


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