Circa 1985. Raj Kapoor's Ram Teri Ganga Maili creates controversy as it showcases its leading lady Mandakini breastfeeding and bathing under a waterfall, leaving almost nothing to imagination.
Exactly 30 years down the line, another Kapoor creates controversy with a bold move. Ekta Kapoor, in a pioneering move of sorts, has introduced the nudity clause in actors’ contracts for her upcoming film XXX. While many eyebrows were raised with this news, calendar girl Kyra Dutt who plays the lead role in XXX recently signed the agreement, thus becoming the first Bollywood actress to do so.
“My film, XXX belongs to the erotica space. Im not making an effort to parcel erotica as, say, a suspense drama or a horror film. I welcome the ‘nudity clause as it is being called because theres clarity between my actors, the production house (Balaji Motion Pictures) and me as to what are we getting into. Nothing can be compromised, and nothing has been compromised on,” says Ken Ghosh, the director of the movie.
Kyras assent proves that there may be takers for the clause. But the question is: Is there a need for such a clause?
Ken points out that the nudity clause was essential for his film because it has given him the leeway to go the way he wants with his script. I am not thinking about the Censor Board now because the production house I am working with is experienced enough and they know how to deal with them. They know which film should be sanctioned and have green-lit mine, adds Ken.
Ektas move to put scenes involving sex, nudity partial or full, explicit dialogue and exposure keeping the scripts demands in mind, in black and white, has been welcomed by a large number of producers, directors and even casting agents. Murmurs have it that more producers who have films with explicit scenes plan to go the same route.
Put simply, the nudity clause implies that any artiste signing up to work in the film in question becomes legally bound to expose as much as he or she has been asked to and has signed up for. The clause also covers shooting intimate scenes with co-actors. Tanveer Bookwala, Chief Creative Officer of Balaji Motion Pictures, says, The clause specifies the level of nudity, down to which part of the body will be exposedthe shoulder, the waist, the back or any other. Were being transparent about what is needed of an actor in a particular film. Hollywood follows the nudity clause and whoever doesnt want to sign up freely walks out of the project, which will happen here too.
Last year, reportedly, Ekta had a tough time dealing with adult-star-turned-heroine Sunny Leone because the latter was reluctant to shoot certain explicit scenes for Ragini MMS 2. It was stated that Ekta had to personally visit the set and convince her to film those scenes she had verbally committed to. The scenes, however, were not shot the way they should have been and VFX had to be called in to play. Sunny had even refused to shoot some intimate scenes for Ek Pehli Leela with her co-actors. So, reportedly, her husband and adult film partner Daniel Weber was roped in for those scenes. The TV Czarina's decision to add this nudity clause stems from this.
Casting director Roushmi Bannerjee, who cast Anil Kapoors TV series 24, agrees that such instances often happen but go unreported because theyre internally resolved. I havent ever faced this but so many times, I hear actors and actresses blaming casting directors for not letting them know what there was in the film. Theres heartburn because actors and actresses are told but probably forget or misinterpret it. A blame game begins, and then theres chaos on sets which is no ones fault, not the producers for sure. Now, I guess there will be more clarity and less chaos. I think even top actors and actresses will appreciate the transparency in the film-making process, she says.
Choreographer-filmmaker Ahmed Khan disagrees with the last statement made by Bannerjee. He insists that most top actors and actresses may not be in favour of signing such nudity clauses. Who knows, the girl who just signed Ektas contract, may not sign another such contract if and when she becomes a top star. Im not too sure if every actor will agree to sign such contracts, he opines
Kareena Kapoor, for instance, had reportedly refused to go between the sheets for Ekta and Karan Johars joint production Badtameez Dil, which has not gone on floors till date. Tigmanshu Dhulias Begum Samru has also been stuck for the same reason. The film has quite a few explicit scenes which most actresses, including Kareena, who were approached for the role didnt want to do though they loved the idea when narrated to them without the scenes. Manisha Koirala performed some raunchy sequences with a much younger actor for Ek Chotisi Love Story, directed by Shashilal Nair, but didnt pose with her bare back for one of the scenes. A double had to be roped in.
Following several such incidents, it had become imperative for a producer to step forward for change. Director Vikram Bhatt and producer Vikram Malhotra applaud the introduction of this clause. A lot of times, actors and actresses agree to do certain scenes but back off on the day of the shoot. After days of shooting and spending money on the film, it cant even be re-shot with new faces. So, one had to give in to their demands, says Bhatt, adding, An erotic film depends on an actor being unabashed and doing what is needed for the script. The audience will never get to see frontal nudity in India, though the crew may but this new clause will make life easier for filmmakers because everyone will go by whatever was legally agreed upon. No last minute insertions and no last minute back-outs.
While it certainly makes life easier for producers and directors, actors may not feel the same way. But Malhotra quickly points out that the clause is not to exploit an actor, but will be put into practice only when the script demands it. Such clauses will be added only where it is needed. The reason a chunk of the industry is taken by surprise is that were putting down a socially taboo topic into a legal document. No eyebrows are ever raised when accommodation and upkeep of a star are included in their legal contract for a film. Whats the harm if nudity and explicitness of the scenes is also put down in writing?
Nudity in films in India is restricted by the Censor Board. Even in 18+ films, full frontal nudity with genitals exposed is banned. However some Indian films which premiered outside India contained a degree of nudity. Gandu (2010) in Bengali, starring Anubrata Basu, features full-frontal nudity. Chatrak (2011) in Bengali, starring Paoli Dam and Anubrata Basu, is another case in point. With such stringent government restrictions, it is to be seen whether the rest of the industry follows suit and includes nudity clauses for films with intimate and erotic scenes or chooses to strip their films of a certain amount of sexuality that it needs!
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