With Gehraiyaan, intimacy seems to come of age in Hindi cinema

It seems aptly ironical that the ‘intimacy director’ for Shakun Batra’s Gehraiyaan was brought in from Ukraine. Quite obviously, the Indian film industry has no idea of how to portray intimacy on screen.

Subhash K Jha January 28, 2022 14:55:13 IST
With Gehraiyaan, intimacy seems to come of age in Hindi cinema

Deepika Padukone and Siddhant Chaturvedi in Gehraiyaan

It happens to a lot of them. Saif Ali Khan once spoke to me about how "awkward" things can get during a lovemaking scene: "You know, like don't put your hand there, don't touch over there etc."

It was only British actor Henry Cavill who actually spoke about it on record. In an interview to a magazine aptly entitled Men's Fitness, Henry spoke about being aroused during a lovemaking sequence: “It’s only happened to me once, and it was very embarrassing. A girl had to be on top of me, she had spectacular breasts, and I hadn’t  rearranged my.... stuff into a harmless position. She’s basically rubbing herself all over me and, um, it got a bit hard.”

It can get really hard for an actor without proper supervision.

It seems aptly ironical that the ‘intimacy director’ for  Shakun Batra’s Gehraiyaan was brought in from Ukraine.  Quite obviously, the Indian film industry has no idea of how to portray intimacy on screen. I am not sure how intimate the film fraternity in Ukraine is with onscreen intimacy.

But I do know that bringing in expert advice on the matter has made all the difference to Gehraiyaan. For one,  having a woman tell Deepika Padukone how to go about the process of lovemaking look convincing on screen is the wisest thing producer Karan Johar and director Shakun Batra could have done to their vision.

Neither has even the slightest clue on what transpires between men and women behind closed doors.

My dear departed friend Rituparno Ghosh often used to complain about how clumsy Indian actors were in  intimate scenes. According to Ghosh, the clumsiest of them all was Jackie Shroff. During the shooting of Antarmahal [2005], Shroff, who played a brutish husband, had to perform violent lovemaking scenes with Soha Ali Khan.

“Jackie Dada, the stud, was petrified of holding Soha, touching her inappropriately, embracing her wrongly, etc. I was literally screaming, 'Dada Dada, get closer,' while he was just  getting more self-conscious with every shot,” Ghosh giggled.

Years ago, another dear departed friend Kalpana Lajmi had shown veteran Mithun Chakraborty violating  a sex worker with all his, and her, clothes on in Chingari [2006].

When Lajmi showed me the film, I raised a fundamental question: How can the two people in the act be doing it with their clothes on? Lajmi laughed off my misgivings. But when the film released, audiences laughed at the rape.

The worst example of inept intimacy on camera is Kushal Nandy’s Babumoshai  Bandookbaaz, where Chitrangada Singh had to go through the ordeal of being asked to get intimate with Nawazuddin Siddiqui without rehearsals or any preparation.

For the record, Singh was asked to take off her sari, get on top of her hero, and  rub herself. “I pleaded that this was not in my comfort zone. I said I was wearing only a petticoat underneath the saree. The director told me not to fuss, and just do what was required. I was intimidated, bullied, and threatened into doing it. Some crew members were mortified. But Nawaz just sat there, waiting for the storm to blow over.”

After the harassment and bullying, Singh retired into her van to weep. A little later, she recalls, Nandy paying her a visit. “He didn’t ask me if I was okay. He just asked, 'Are you doing the scene?.' I said no. He left. Nawaz could’ve  taken a stand against my harassment. He didn’t. When empowered men in the film industry do not take a stand, the harassers feel encouraged.”

Nandy maintained he was only asking his actress to do her job properly. If only our relations with Ukraine were as good back then as they are now.

Gehraiyaan will premiere on Amazon Prime Video India on 11 February.

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