Risque sex film arouses interest in Bollywood

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The Independent Culture

A new film that includes sex, nudity and voyeurism has caused a stir in Bollywood as the industry tries hard to shed its traditionally conservative image.

"Love Sex Aur Dhokha" (Love, Sex And Betrayal), released on Friday, explores the idea of sex in a small town in northern India, using security cameras and other devices to track the characters of three interlinked stories.

The drama and its cast of newcomers have attracted attention as a result - not least because of stills published in the Mumbai press that show one of the female characters topless and in a passionate clinch on top of a man.

However the so-called "secretly filmed" sex scene from which they were taken did not impress the censors, who cut it to just 15 seconds.

The film currently has more than 13,000 fans on Facebook while more than 150,000 people have viewed an uncensored trailer on its official YouTube site.

Director Dibakar Banerjee said he was delighted with the interest and he rejected accusations of sensationalism.

"'Love Sex Aur Dhokha' is not about sex, sex and sex," said Banerjee, who directed the hits "Khosla Ka Ghosla" (Khosla's House) and "Oye Lucky Oye!"

"Those who expect that will return disappointed," he told the Mid-day newspaper this week.

Instead Banerjee bills the film as an exploration of the increasing erosion of privacy in modern life in India, with the advent of security cameras, cameras on mobile phones and other new technology.

"This film will redefine to Indian audiences what is public and what is private," said Banerjee.

The movie, which uses the tagline "You're being watched", has been given an "A" certificate banning people under 18 from screenings.

"Love Sex Aur Dhokha" has drawn comparisons with US director Steven Soderbergh's Oscar-nominated 1989 film "Sex, Lies And Videotape" while its unconventional filming technique and subject has won it critical acclaim.

Leading industry analyst Taran Adarsh said: "It is brave. It is scandalous. Most importantly, it is path-breaking."

"'Love Sex Aur Dhokha' signifies the changing face of Hindi cinema," he wrote on bollywoodhungama.com, assessing that it had "all it takes to be a cult film that might trigger off a new trend in Bollywood".

The film is the latest to push the boundaries of what is acceptable on Indian cinema screens nearly 60 years after the introduction of the 1952 Cinematograph Act, which banned "indecency", including sex and nudity.

The censor board that enforced the act was seen by many as the nation's moral guardian, fighting against perceived corrupt Western influences and promoting Indian national identity.

As a result, the nearest a hero could come to a heroine was a chaste embrace.

When it came to actual love-making, the shot often cut to images of two bees or two flowers touching.

There have been signs of change in recent years, like in 2004 when actress Neha Dhupia stripped bare in promotional posters for the film "Julie".

At the time she quipped that "only sex and (superstar) Shah Rukh Khan sells in Bollywood".

Vinayak Azad, regional officer at the Central Board of Film Certification, has rejected claims that the censors have become more relaxed.

"I won't say that we have become more liberal but we are keeping more abreast with the times," he told AFP last year.

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