How Veere Di Wedding and Lust Stories spearhead the sexual revolution of Bollywood’s women
With films like Veere Di Wedding and Lust Stories, the summer of 2018 will go down in Bollywood’s history as the season when women (literally) took matters into their own hands.
The summer of 2018 will go down in Bollywood’s history as the season when women (literally) took matters into their own hands.
It all started with Swara Bhaskar’s Sakshi Soni and a purple vibrator (blurred thanks to the Censor Board) in Veere Di Wedding. Three months of forced celibacy and a particular nasty fight with her husband made her ‘excite’ as Sakshi explains to her girlfriends. If a mainstream actress enacting a full-fledged orgasm on the big screen wasn’t enough to make Veere Di Wedding a landmark film, Shashanka Ghosh’s buddy film is peppered with conversations about multiple charam sukhs (orgasm in Hindi). There’s even a scene where Sakshi tells her parents about being caught with her hands in her pants — one that surprisingly ends in laughter.
Just weeks after the release of Veere Di Wedding, director Karan Johar brought a bullet vibrator into the drawing room of a middle class household in Lust Stories – a Netflix original. The omnibus of four short films, helmed by Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Benerjee, Anurag Kashyap and Johar, explores love, morality, sexual freedom and power.
Johar’s short revolves around the newly weds Sandhya (Kiara Advani), a schoolteacher and her husband Paras (Vicky Kaushal) who races to a climax every single time without giving any heed to her satisfaction. In a parallel track, there is Sandhya’s colleague Rekha (Neha Dhupia) who, on a slow workday, decides to pleasure herself in one of the many alcoves in the school library. She calls her nifty vibrator ‘the best husband ever’ – he is always with her, doesn’t talk and satisfies her. What more could a girl ask for? Inspired by Rekha, Sandhya takes a sex toy on a test drive only to experience 'kabhie khushi kabhi ghum'.
That’s not all. In another short directed by Kashyap, comedian Sumukhi Suresh has some suggestions on how to build up to the big ‘o’: "Put on some sexy music, shut the door, wash your hands (because hygiene first!), think of Hrithik Roshan and start", she recommends.
Masturbation on-screen isn’t something we see in mainstream Hindi films, regardless of a character’s gender. To have three women pleasuring themselves on screen, and others talking about it, has obviously made news. There have been think pieces, Facebook updates and for a few glorious hours, the word even trended on Twitter.
In the absence of meaningful sex-positive sex education in this country, seeing this representation of sexuality in Indian cinema, especially from the female point of view, is important. How else do we learn that loving and pleasuring yourself is the foundation to a happy sex life with a partner? Masturbation, for both genders, has always been a topic for behind closed doors (if at all) and it’s been completely ignored by our filmmakers. Until now, that is.
With women showing the way by taking responsibility for their own pleasure, here’s hoping that Bollywood’s leading men will also lose their inhibitions.
The beauty of these ‘in-your-face’ scenes is that the more we see them, the more ‘normal’ they become. Just like kissing in Hindi films has graduated from two flowers intertwined to Emraan Hashmi wearing the tag of serial kisser as a badge of honour. On-screen kisses have now become so routine that the audience doesn’t blink an eyelid.
Even as one celebrates these two films and their makers for shining a spotlight on a much-ignored aspect of the female sexuality, it is important to point out that they are a long way off from a nuanced depiction of female masturbation. In all three scenes, the female character indulging her sexuality is fodder for comedy. And, their orgasm is one long When Harry Met Sally-esque moment with knee-jerk moaning. That’s not how real women do it.
In real life, female pleasure is mundane, utilitarian and routine. The closest I have come to seeing that on screen in recent times is in the multiple Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water. In between boiling an egg for breakfast and polishing her shoe, Elisa (Sally Hawkins) quickly rubs one out during her morning bath. Director Guillermo del Toro sandwiched the masturbation scene between her morning routine to show the thorough ordinariness of the act. And kudos to that.
Some day, an Indian director will give us a masturbation scene that’s so humdrum, it doesn’t become news. Until then, here’s to women being the masters of their own pleasure.
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