This past weekend I listened to Thom Ernst, a guest on Fresh Air to talk about memorable Hollywood kisses. Together with another incident this past year it inspired me to do a little research into kissing in both Hollywood and Bollywood.
This is one cultural clash that has been clearly won by Hollywood, but I was a bit surprised to learn that Hollywood has had restrictions as well.
Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious" were directed by Alfred Hitchcock who wanted to challenge a 3 second rule. Each kiss lasted only the allowable 3 seconds, but carried on for a full 3 minutes. "Lady and the Tramp" aimed at more of a family audience got a surprise kiss when the two dogs slurped at a spaghetti from opposite ends. "Planet of the Apes" had an inter species kiss from Charlton Heston to a costumed ape. Thom recognized another breakthrough in "In and Out" between Kevin Kline and Tom Selleck. in 1997. "From Here to Eternity" had Thom's top choice with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr and I remember seeing the movie first as a student and had to read the book. The novel was a lot more graphic and I realized the kissing was symbolic of a more sensual event, but had added suspense by their obliviousness on an open beach.
Researching brought my attention to other memorable kisses such as in "Gone with The Wind" (Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh) and "Casablanca" (Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman) and more recently "Spiderman" (Tobey Maguire, upside down with Kirsten Dunst). A big breakthrough was with "Brokeback Mountain" (Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger).
Kissing has pretty well been settled in Hollywood and we wouldn't think much of a romance without some kissing and if they are trying to make a point they need a passionate kiss. Going beyond that in Hollywood nowadays is fairly normal, but not part of this blog.
Bollywood had its first kiss back in 1933 and it was for four minutes in a movie called "Karma" Subsequently the moral authorities tightened up and on the lip kisses disappeared. However film makers found ways to work around it. Kissing on the lips was avoided, but kissing occurred on the back, neck, cheek and even navel. Women were scantily clad and allowed very suggestive dancing, but some authorities felt "lip lock" was too intimate for public viewing. Sometimes the imagination is triggered whereas in Hollywood and more so in Europe sex was more explicit.
The three popular Khans are at three different stages in this saga. Aamir Khan has made it a point to kiss each of his leading ladies since the 1990's. Shah Rukh Khan avoided lip kissing I am told out of respect for his wife. His personal life would make an interesting movie as he married across religious lines. He broke the kissing barrier with Katrina Kaif at the request of Yash Chopra in the director's last movie, "Jab Tak Hal Jaan" released in 2012. Salman Khan (who used to live with Katrina) has never kissed on the lips on screen. These are all macho, romantic super stars with a touch of sensitivity.
Two Bollywood women have suffered some consequences. Aishawarya Rai who had turned down American films that wanted her kissing. She decided she needed to have a breakthrough and chose 2006 with Hrithik Roshan, who is noted as one of the best kissers. She was threatened with legal action, but in the end has kissed in several movies for both Bollywood and Hollywood.
Shilpa Shetty greeted Richard Gere at an Aids fund raiser in India and he kissed her in public. This led to media bashing. She was detained at the Mumbai airport.
A recent movie released in 2013, "Table No 21" set in modern times had a scene where a couple in a reality game show were expected to kiss in public and there was a real hesitation. The movie had a hidden agenda that was based on public humiliation and the kiss was just leading up to more hurtful pranks.
India is still known for families attending movies together including young kids and grandma. How- ever it is becoming more common for young dating or married couples to attend movie theatres and they expect more realism. Romance is still one of the biggest draws, although it competes against violence.
I think kissing is becoming more popular in Hollywood and Bollywood and it is good for everyone. I hope you all get your share of Valentine goodies.