kiss bliss

Bring your lips together for ‘Labon Ka Karobaar’, the snog song from Aditya Chopra’s ‘Befikre’

There is no sweeter dedication to the joys of kissing in all of Hindi cinema, and it’s not for want of trying.

Whoever said Indians don’t kiss? Aditya Chopra’s upcoming film Befikre has been putting out a series of posters featuring its lead pair in various stages of lip-locking. Ranveer Singh and Vaani Kapoor have been at it like there’s no tomorrow in friendly European locations where such activities do not invite the attention of the moral police or Pahlaj Nihalani.

One of the posters for ‘Befikre’.
One of the posters for ‘Befikre’.

Chopra has gone one step further to promote his December 9 release. The first song from the soundtrack is appropriately called Labon Ka Karobaar (This kissing business). The video of the smooth tune, composed by Vishal-Shekhar and sung by Papon, is an ode to the joys of public smooching in Paris. From an elderly couple to aggressive lovers at a bus stop, Chopra seems to be saying, look, this is how the City of Love lives up to its name. Full marks to Chopra for featuring a lesbian kiss at 2 mins and 15 secs, and for ending the video with the slogan “Kiss Carefree. Love Carefree. Live Carefree.”

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‘Labon Ka Karobaar’.

It’s rare for a movie song to celebrate the kiss with such abandon. There are various rules about the kiss in Hindi films, the first of which is that there is no such thing as the kiss in Hindi films. A liplock scene rarely goes unremarked upon, but it has been accepted that songs can celebrate the act and go where the rest of the production does not dare to.

Even here, there are numerous obstacles. The Hindi word for kiss, chumma, has a ring of obscenity to it, which is probably why musical tracks about the one thing that citizens of the world’s most populous nation do not do are couched in lasciviousness.

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‘Zara Zara Touch Me’ from ‘Race’ (2008).

By and large, Hindi film heroes and heroines bring their quivering lips close and then freeze before the liplock. It’s usually the woman who turns away, her face contorted with what seems to be pleasure but is actually terror. Since kissing can sometimes be a prelude to sex, its screen depiction necessarily defers to Indian values. Flowers and plants suddenly come to life and start colliding with a force that the average botanist will be hard-pressed to explain. Cheeks may bounce off each other, collarbones may be explored and throats examined, but the lips may not meet. A strategically placed garment or a sudden cutaway to an inconsequential object in the vicinity will veil the actual act and end the collective discomfiture. In such a repressed atmosphere, it is easy to mishear “Kis Kisko” as Kiss Kiss Ko”.

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‘Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon’ from ‘Tumse Achha Kaun Hai’ (1969).

The film song that is set in locations designed to encourage the discarding of inhibitions, such as the fog-filled hill station, the decadent European city, or the rain-drenched city quarter, is the best possible excuse to finally let lips meet, but it is not that easy. Somebody is always watching – government censors, the censorious public, the movie star’s fans who are embarrassed on their icon’s behalf. In a song from Ram Jaane (1995), Shah Rukh Khan, who famously does not kiss in his films, prefers to catch an animated pair of red lips rather than let his own do their work.

‘Phenk Hawa Mein Ek Chumma’ from ‘Ram Jaane’ (1995).
‘Phenk Hawa Mein Ek Chumma’ from ‘Ram Jaane’ (1995).

Who can blame Khan or his peers, most of whom regard kissing as a moment of weakness that can have unforeseen consequences? To misquote from Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992), a kiss can be deadly if you mean it.

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‘Zehar Hai Ke Pyaar Hai Tera Chumma’ from ‘Sabse Bada Khiladi’ (1995).

Some of the disgust associated with kissing is because it has been stacked in favour of the puckering male. It is usually the man who demands a smooch from the woman, and since he is accompanied by a posse of leering men, the woman flees in the opposite direction. She is often tamed by the end: one small step for the Hindi film hero and a giant misstep for the portrayal of women on the screen.

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‘Jumma Chumma De De’ from ‘Hum’ (1991).

This tendency of Hindi cinema to assault the lips of terrified women was brilliantly captured by the great artist Atul Dodiya in his painting series Saptapadi: Scenes from Marriage Regardless (2003-2006). One of the paintings is from the movie Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja (1993), and the unwilling recipient is Sridevi.

Atul Dodiya on the Hindi film kiss.
Atul Dodiya on the Hindi film kiss.

Rarely – very rarely – there emerges the upright Indian male who will protect his mouth as the shameless Indian female tries to make contact with it. He will offer his cheek, like Jesus, and never succumb to temptation even when she is throwing desperate hints his way.

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‘Chumma Chumma’ from ‘Pataal Bhairavi’ (1985).

A woman who is open to kissing is usually of questionable character. What other kind will describe her lips as “juicy” and invite the attention of such chick magnets as Anil Kapoor and Nana Patekar?

‘Hoth Rasiley’ from ‘Welcome’ (2007).
‘Hoth Rasiley’ from ‘Welcome’ (2007).

Songs that promise guilt-free and presumably equitable snogs can be deeply misleading. Our devious filmmakers will add a track called Kiss of Love to a soundtrack but shroud the highly anticipated moment in darkness, forcing viewers to use their imagination instead.

When the kiss is actually consummated, it usually makes the headlines and sells tickets. Emraan Hashmi has earned the unfortunate reputation of being Hindi cinema’s leading smooch artist. It all began with Murder (2004), Anurag Basu’s copy of the Hollywood film Unfaithful (2002). The song Bheege Hont Tere Pyaasa Dil Mera (lyrics by Sayeed Quadri) left little to the imagination, and Basu piled on the torrid lovemaking imagery. The result: Murder was a massive hit, and poor Hashmi found that his lips were in greater demand than his other skills.

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‘Bheegey Hont Tere’ from ‘Murder’ (2004).

Keen purveyors of the science of the union of the lips might, however, find fault with Hashmi’s potentially injury-causing suction action. They might prefer more subtle practitioners of the art, such as Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. That is also why Labon Ka Karobaar from Befikre is so important. Above all, it is a how-to-kiss primer, one whose video will be watched, paused, and rewound endlessly by Indians who don’t usually kiss, but are finally beginning to.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.