Romantic, sensuous, bold, controversial… The ‘kiss’ in Hindi cinema is all this and much more. This phenomenon has always been a hot topic of discussion and debate – who locked lips with whom, how many kisses does a film feature, who is the latest serial kisser and so on. It’s like the kisses in a movie make more news than the movie itself. And while the industry is opening up, once again, to this symbol of love, the kiss has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai locking lips in Karma (1933)

Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai locking lips in ‘Karma’

We may look at it as a sign of modernism, an influence of western culture, but in fact the kiss has been in the industry for much longer than we can imagine. And the earlier generations happened to be much less conservative about this simple expression of romance. The first kiss in the history of Hindi cinema was seen in the 1929 silent film A Throw of Dice between actors Seeta Devi and Charu Roy. If that was not all, one of the longest kissing scenes on the Indian screen does not feature any of the present day actors but old time sensation, Devika Rani, who was seen in a four-minute liplock with her real life husband Himanshu in the 1933 film Karma. The actresses of the 20s and 30s had a more open attitude to on-screen intimacy and the films of pre-independent India had a liberal dosage of such scenes that displayed affection.

However with Independence also came the Cinematograph Act 1952 following which on-screen kissing witnessed a ban of sorts. This led to films becoming more conservative during the 40s and 50s and romance was depicted through new forms of symbolism. Flowers brushing against each other, a couple getting together behind a tree or fire burning were some ways for audiences to deduce what happens next. Two flowers coming together was the most popular metaphor for a kiss used in several films in the 60s and 70s.

Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in Bobby

Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in ‘Bobby’

It was Raj Kapoor who is said to have re-introduced on-screen kissing with his 1960 film Mera Naam Joker, where he shares a kiss with Russian actress Ksiena Rambiankina. This was the only liplock of the 60s. In the 70s several of his films have celebrated romance and sensuality and showcased the much ‘hyped’ kiss. In 1973 Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia are seen kissing in Bobby. One of the most erotic films in Indian history, Satyam Shivam Sundaram created a rage on many fronts and the kiss between Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman was one of them. This was followed by the 80’s sensation Ram Teri Ganga Maili wherein Raj Kapoor’s son Rajiv Kapoor and Mandakini too shared a kiss.

Filmmakers in the late 80s and 90s followed suit and the kiss made an open comeback. In 1988, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, saw newcomers Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla kiss in what is regarded as one of the most memorable love stories of those times. Other films where the liplock garnered attention included Sagar (Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia once again), Madhuri Dixit smooching Aamir Khan in Dil, which also showed the evolution of a gutsy new heroine in Hindi cinema and of course one of the most explicit kisses between the young Madhuri Dixit and a much older Vinod Khanna in Daayavan which is also touted as one of the longest smooching scenes.


Karishma Kapoor and Aamir Khan in ‘Raja Hindustani’

The 90s set a new trend with Karishma Kapoor and Aamir Khan engaging in a passionate smooch in Raja Hindustani, which became quite a rage. And from then on the kiss has been scorching the screens of Hindi cinema. 2003 saw the advent of Mallika Sherawat in Khwahish that boasted of 17 or more kissing scenes. But the film bombed. Then came Murder, the erotic thriller that saw Mallika Sherawat and Emraan Hashmi in a complete no-holds-barred approach. It set the pace for several films in the erotic genre and Emraan Hashmi was tagged as Bollywood’s serial kisser with a kiss in almost every movie of his.

With the passage of time established actors and actresses, even newbies, have shed their inhibitions and are more open to experimenting with the kiss. So Aishwarya Rai Bachchan locked lips with Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2, Kareena Kapoor kissed Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots and Shahrukh Khan, who had refrained from indulging in any on screen kisses made an exception for Jab Tak Hai Jaan wherein he shared a kiss with Katrina Kaif as the story demanded it. Even Rani Mukherji and the much senior Amitabh Bachchan shared a kiss in Black, which was aesthetically directed and well integrated into the story by director Sanjay Leela Bansali, that it didn’t make you flinch.

But the kiss has not always been used as a sacred symbol of love. Bollywood has exploited ‘the kiss’ with several filmmakers using it as a tool for publicity and moneymaking. There is a thin line between romance and sleaze and Hindi cinema is more often than not struggling on this front. With almost every second film having a kissing scene today, it is no more a taboo but the aesthetic with which it is portrayed largely depends on the filmmaker’s sensibilities.

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