Mother of All Kisses: Devika Rani Gave Hindi Cinema a Bold Edge

On Devika Rani’s birth anniversary, we wonder why we started with a bold kiss but became regressive along the way.

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Bollywood
2 min read
On Devika Rani’s birth anniversary, we wonder why we started out with a bold kiss but have become regressive about censorship now.
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Devika Rani locked lips passionately with Himanshu Rai on-screen in Karma, way back in 1933. The bold actress is still remembered for her audacious achievement. On her birth anniversary, we’re left wondering why the censor board hasn’t kept up with the boldness of our filmi characters. If it was okay to kiss on screen 80 years ago, what’s all the fuss about now?

The real life couple apparently kissed for four long minutes in one particular scene and then kissed another 35 times in the film! But that was all good by the censor board back in the day. It was incredibly bold and fresh for its time.

Fast forward eighty years to the most recent James Bond film Spectre.The current censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani imposed brutal cuts on two kissing scenes in the Hollywood flick. It was indeed very strange to see James Bond, who fights, kills and loves with equal passion, give an incredibly hot Bond girl, a harmless peck on the lips!

Hey, and not just that. Even the small screen seems to have evolved with time while the big screen has been busy censoring itself. A bold series on MTV showcased a passionate kiss between two lesbian lovers, addresses their relationship with great maturity and boldness actually.

Why are we walking backwards when it comes to films? Are on-screen lip locks today more daring than they were back in Devika Rani’s day and age? Audiences and creative minds have surely come a long way but why is the censor board still in limbo?

Indian television is coming of age with its realistic depiction of same sex relationships (Photo: <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4072CNKNs3c">YouTube/ MTV India</a>)
Indian television is coming of age with its realistic depiction of same sex relationships (Photo: YouTube/ MTV India)

When Bollywood films show a great deal more than just kissing and bedding, why expect a casanova firang Bond to be all sanskari? If nothing else, can we please stop blaming pashchatya sabhyata (western culture) for corrupting our pious little minds, because clearly, we’re just as bold as them and so is our sexuality.

Can someone please tell Mr Nihalani to stop asserting his archaic sensibilities from time to time on poor filmmakers, who are relentlessly trying to push boundaries, not only in terms of their craft but also in terms of telling stories that need to be told in present times?

Thankfully, Devika Rani gave us a great staring point that makes the censorship debate go weak in its knees.

(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published in November 2015. It is now being republished to mark Devika Rani’s birth anniversary.)

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