Growing up, kissing scenes in Bollywood were either crass or non-existent. The censor board would be quick to hand over the “Adult Certification” to the movies that involved kissing scenes. Remember James Bond’s Spectre?
Bollywood wasn’t always conservative and regressive with its approach to intimate scenes. Since India’s independence from the British, Indian movies have tried to cater more to the family-friendly audiences. As a result, intimacy reduced to hand-holding and flowers-moving. However, there were some filmmakers who refused to bow down and persevered.
This International Kissing Day, I am focusing on some of the best, well-made and the most important kissing scenes in Bollywood.
1. Bilat Ferat’s (1921) kissing scenes
N.C. Lahiri and Dhirendra Nath Ganguly’s Bilat Ferat was a Bengali silent film that featured a few kissing scenes between the cast members that included Manmatha Pal, Kunjalal Chakraborty, Sushilabala, Nripen Bose, Nitish Lahiri, Shishubala and Ganguly, himself.
The movie was a satirical comedy and it managed to perform well at the ticket counters. Bengali cinema never shies away from experimentation and it was true even back then. It’s a shame that today, it’s difficult to find even a copy of the film.
Bilat Feret translates to Foreign Returned. During that period, foreign generally translated to England. So, as the western cinema usually included one or two intimate scenes in their films, Ganguly and Lahiri decided to incorporate it in their film, as well. A direct influence of the English style of filmmaking, indeed.
Naturally, this infuriated the Indians as they felt this encroached upon their sensibilities. 99 years later, kissing scenes in Bollywood still manages to raise an eyebrow or two.
2. Charu Roy and Seeta Devi in Prapancha Pash (A Throw of Dice) (1929)
Directed by the Bavarian director, Franz Osten, Prapancha Pash was based on an episode from the epic, Mahabharata.
Osten, along with his frequent collaborator, Himanshu Rai, filmed the first-ever kissing scene that can be accessed even today. The scene and the movie can be accessed even today, thanks to the British Film Institute’s re-release of the preserved footage.
The kiss was shared between Charu Roy and Seeta Devi. The movie, along with this historic kissing scene, is considered to be one of the greatest achievements in Indian films. In fact, Osten’s take on the epic had over 10,000 extras and 1,000 plus horses.
Too bad that the director who gave us one of the earliest kissing scenes in Bollywood turned out to be a member of the Nazi Party. Art and artist, eh?
3. Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai in Karma (1933)
After dabbling with Prapancha Pash, Himanshu Rai decided to up the stakes in his next film that also starred his wife, Devika Rani. Devika was the grand-niece of the great, Rabindranath Tagore.
In 1933, Karma, an English-Hindi language film, was released in India, Germany and England. The movie immediately started to gain attention for its four-minute kissing scene between the leads and the real-life couple, Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani.
A kissing scene that puts all the kissing scenes in Bollywood to shame
The movie was a success in England but when it was re-released in Hindi as Naagan Ki Raagini, it couldn’t impress the natives.
None of the succeeding Bollywood kissing scenes came even close to breaking the record. It remains unbroken 87 years after its initial release.
4. Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in Bobby (1973)
From 1933 we take a 40-year jump to 1973. After our independence, the censorship in the “new” India truly started to take its form. Kissing scenes in Bollywood were rare as nation-building was the need of the hour and Manoj Kumar movies were the answers.
(For our young readers, Manoj Kumar was the OG Akshay Kumar aka a true nationalist.)
It may seem trivial today, but 1973’s Bobby holds an important place in Bollywood’s history. Back then, it was rare to see a hero and a heroine belonging to the same age group. Bobby solved this problem by casting two teenagers in a mainstream movie. The teenage rebellion reflected in their love story and the kiss shared between Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia is now considered to be one of the most important kissing scenes in Bollywood and of Independent India.
The success of Bobby saw even more age-appropriate movies being greenlighted. Just like how Manoj Kumar walked so Akshay Kumar could run, Bobby, too, sprinted so Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na could soar.
5. Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in Fire (1996)
As a creator, I understand the importance of shock value. Heterosexual kissing scenes weren’t shocking the Indian audiences, anymore. I mean, even Madhuri Dixit and Vinod Khanna shared a kiss and we don’t even talk about it. So, what was next?
Well, Deepa Mehta decided to crank up the heat by adding a lesbian kissing scene in her 1996 movie, Fire. As far as kissing scenes in Bollywood were concerned, this managed to create a shock wave among the masses.
Shabana Azmi was from an era where kissing scenes in Bollywood were only left to the imagination. Her kiss with Nandita Das created a ruckus as the political goons thrashed various theatres that showed this movie.
However, one thing Fire achieved was that it sparked a conversation about free speech and homosexuality in a country where even holding hands was seen as taboo. How many kissing scenes in Bollywood have managed to achieve that?
6. Yuvraaj Parashar and Kapil Sharma in Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyon (2010)
14 years after we got our first-ever lesbian kissing scene, 2010’s Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyon gave us our first-ever gay kissing scene in a mainstream Bollywood movie.
The film starred another actor from the romantic 70s era, Zeenat Aman along with Kabir Bedi and Helen. Isn’t it funny that these yesteryear stars, who grew up in a conservative environment, are keener to work on projects that question the Indian sensibilities? Khan who, amirite?
The kiss between Yuvraaj Parashar and Kapil Sharma had harsher consequences on the former than the latter. Yuvraaj’s family decided to legally disown him as he brought “shame” upon their family.
Frankly, Mr Parashar, in my humble opinion, your homophobia has brought more shame upon your family than your son sharing a kiss with another man.
Despite the naysayers, Yuvraaj Parashar received praises from then Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Chhagan Bhujpal for his portrayal of a bisexual man and contribution to the LGBT community in Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyon. Ah, the times when politicians weren’t regressive!
Back when I first saw Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’s trailer, I dismissed it as a rehash of Dil Chahta Hai and Hangover. I wasn’t ready for the storm that was Zoya Akhtar.
I have eaten my words since then and even consider Zoya to be the best working director in Bollywood. So, it was only natural to include one of the best kissing scenes of the previous decade.
Who would’ve thought that when you put women in charge of directing and writing an all-guys’ road-trip movie, you get the best results possible? Well, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’s kissing scene perfectly captures this essence of the film.
Hrithik’s Kabir is a stringent, boxed-up guy, who’s, for lack of a better word, a downer. In one of the cities they’re visiting, he meets Katrina Kaif’s Laila who challenges his worldview as she is, what they call, a free-flowing personality.
When the guys huddle up and move to the next city, Laila decides to chase Kabir down on her motorcycle. She cuts them off and walks up Kabir. Taking full control of the situation, she kisses Kabir full on his mouth.
We’ve seen this scenario play out numerous times in various kissing scenes in Bollywood. However, what makes this scene unique is the gender-switch. Usually, it’s the man who chases the woman down on a motorcycle – a symbol of manliness.
Rahul Desai of Film Companion perfectly describes this scene, “The sequence not only subverts the gender politics of the first move, it also honours an equation in which nothing but the loudest and most public expression of love is required to jolt a man out of uptight slumber.”
8. Saqib Saleem and Randeep Hooda in Bombay Talkies (2013)
Bombay Talkies was a collaborative effort between Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar and Dibakar Banerjee. It was produced to commemorate and celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema.
To usher in a new era of movies, Karan Johar decided to film one of the most vital gay kissing scenes in Bollywood. It was only fitting.
His short story, Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh, saw Randeep Hooda and Saqib Saleem locking lips. Hooda was met with questions as the media felt he had jeopardised his career. Hooda, not only dismissed this ridiculous notion but was also seen in another gay kissing scene in John Day, the same year.
Bombay Talkies gets a lot of flak but the step to include a gay kissing scene in a movie that marked 100 years of Indian cinema was definitely a bold statement to make. Credit where credit’s due.
9. Labon Ka Karobaar from Befikre (2016)
I remember when Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor came to promote Befikre on Comedy Nights with Kapil, it was being marketed as the movie with most kissing scenes in Bollywood, ever. Kapil said that he even counted the kisses. Yikes.
For a country that is the number one in viewership on PornHub, it sure loves to refrain itself from a movie that has “kissing” in it. Case in point, the song Labon Ka Karobaar has an almost 50% dislike ratio. Why, you ask? ‘Cause they are kissing in public, you see.
Labon Ka Karobaar has couples of all ages, shapes, sizes, colours, genders sharing their love for each other by kissing.
Opening your movie with an interracial homosexual couple, wheelchair-bound couple, transgender couple and two little people sharing a kiss is beyond bold for a Bollywood movie. And it’s the same director that gave us DDLJ.
The song ends with, “A kiss is the beginning of every love story.” Maybe they were going for a beautiful message, or maybe they just wanted the record of ‘most kissing scenes in Bollywood.’ It’s a classic case of what could’ve been.
10. Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (2020)
When the trailer of a family-friendly Bollywood comedy includes a nonchalant gay kiss scene, you know things are going in the right direction.
Gay kissing scenes in Bollywood weren’t as common as you’d hope them to be. Barring a few trailblazers like Arjun Mathur, Randeep Hooda, Irrfan Khan and Rahul Bose, very few actors dared to lock lip with a man.
Ayushmann Khurrana is known to undertake projects that are usually “not safe.” Therefore, he took it upon himself to normalise gay kissing scenes in Bollywood.
Along with TVF’s Jitendra Kumar, Ayushmann achieved to break the social taboo and reach the masses to show that love is love is love.
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is not a perfect film. You could argue that it is not even a good film. However, it is an important film in the context of Indian cinema and deserves to be on the right side of history.
99 years ago, a simple kiss between a man and a woman shook the discrepant veil of “Indian values and culture”. It’s 2020 and we are still seeing filmmakers challenge this false sense of worldview that the nation has made itself to believe. There are still a few social taboos to break.
Till then, here’s to shattering the sensibilities, one kiss at a time.