Today’s filmmakers are bold, yet afraid of offending groups: Johar

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 08 Desember 2013 | 22.23

The biggest killjoy in the brash, new world of Indian cinema is not a bunch of hardy bureaucrats acting as official censors. It is those small but extremely vocal groups who take offence to anything from the clan name of the hero and heroine to the language of the film's title. Filmmakers are quite wary of them and try to steer clear by resorting to self-censorship, said director-actor Karan Johar.

"Today, India is more free and expressive and filmmakers are unabashed. But all of us are afraid of offending someone," said Johar, who has been slapped with court cases for his films that are mostly typical Bollywood pot-boilers with a liberal dash of romance.

The other censor is actors themselves, said Johar, who gave an insightful and lively talk on the portrayal of romance in Hindi cinema. "We auditioned 22 actors for a short in 'Bombay Talkies', but all of them refused to play a gay guy," said Johar, who has addressed infidelity and expressed homosexuality in his movies. Filmmakers are ready to bring to life bold content. "I would love to make a 'Brokeback Mountain' in Hindi, but mainstream stars aren't going to kiss on screen," said Johar, adding cheekily that though actors might be kissing each other off screen, on the big screen they all want to be seen as "vestal virgins".

According to Johar, the portrayal of romance has evolved over the years, closely mirroring changing social and political realities. In the pre-independence years, love was expressed in a cautious manner. "Once we got freedom, we started running towards the hill stations and this was shown in our films," said Johar. After the quiet lovers of the silent era, there were heroines like the Europe-educated Devika Rani, who courted heroes and controversy with sensuousness. Heroes also had their own evolution—from silent lovers like Dilip Kumar to the dazzling hero of Raj Kapoor to the audacious leading man best portrayed by Shammi Kapoor. Clouds and roses came together but never the lovers. "Sometimes they exercised while singing love to each other," laughed Johar, referring to the popular song in 'Humjoli' where Jeetendra and Leena Chandavarkar exchange volleys and love across a badminton court. With the emergence of 'angry young man' Amitab Bacchan, who epitomized the angst-ridden youngsters of the '70s, romance took a backseat only to come back in badly-remade potboilers of the '80s.

Grand romance made a reentry in the joint family-based sagas of director Suraj Barjatya, who was joined by Johar himself with his trademark yellow mustard fields where lovers cavorted. Romance was put in the backburner again as multiplex movies came in, said Johar. Self-discovery, national pride and social identity were the preferred themes in the 2000s. Now, the millennial heroes are sometimes from rural places and their heroines match them in passion. "It is impatient, aggressive, racy and bold," said Johar, adding that romance will never go out of fashion.

"It is a non-transferable element of Indian cinema and one of the popular themes," he said. Maybe, the scene will change with the coming of younger generations. But for now, Johar hears violins when he meets somebody attractive. "And time slows down."

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