Conditions notwithstanding, Malaysian movie buffs lap up bold Hindi films

Kuala Lumpur, June 13 (IANS) A liplock – once a big deal for the Indian silver screen – was given the miss at a screening of a latest Bollywood film in this principal city of Malaysia, where there are restrictions on sexual and religious content in movies. But Bollywood fans are undeterred by the government’s guidelines and are lapping up bold content.

To Indian viewers at the screening of “Dil Dhadakne Do”, on the sidelines of the 16th edition of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend and Awards, an abrupt cut which replaced a kiss, came as a surprise.

For residents, it wasn’t an eyebrow-raising moment.

“Any intimate scene or films related to sexuality are mostly trimmed or they get banned. I don’t understand why the government has such guidelines because people can watch any film online,” 25-year-old Rashmi, a Malaysian with roots in India, told IANS.

According to an article published in 2010 by the Jakarta Globe on movie censorship guidelines, Malaysia’s censors “have loosened decades of restrictions on sexual and religious content in movies, but are still keeping a tight leash on sexually-charged kisses and tiny bikinis”.

The article goes on to state that “Muslims could not be shown consuming alcohol and gambling earlier, but the new guidelines state that it would be permissible if the filmmaker wants to ‘depict a person’s transformation from being evil to good’.”

Also, sex scenes, including “homosexuality and unnatural sex”, and kissing on “body parts that could arouse sex, including the neck, chest and ears” were discouraged.

But Bollywood fans, as most shared, are open to any genre of films, including bold content as long as they are entertaining.

“I watched ‘Margarita with a Straw’ on DVD and really liked the content of the film. I like the fact that Bollywood is getting bold and experimental without compromising on the story,” said Rashmi about the Kalki Koechlin-starrer, which discusses disabled people, their desires and sexuality.

It’s vital to note that at one point in Hindi cinema, the coming together of two flowers was used metaphorically for a kiss. But the depiction of intimacy has come of age in recent times.

Another Malaysian Bollywood fan, 23-year-old Mira, who loves Shahid Kapoor’s films, feels intimate scenes in movies are fine.

“I love Dharma Productions’ films. Love is shown so beautifully in their films. I am okay with watching bold scenes as long as there is no negative impact on my life,” she said.

Caroline Simon, whose grandparents are from Sri Lanka, says “Bollywood films are fun”.

“The actors are good-looking and they seem to be nice people. I managed to see Karisma Kapoor and Bipasha Basu at events before in Kuala Lumpur. I am open to any genre. It all depends on the individual…how a person gets inspired,” said Simon.

A die-hard fan of Bollywood, Edmund, who belongs to the Chinese community of Malaysia, says he likes to watch Bollywood films because of the way emotions are dealt with in the movies.

“I started watching Bollywood films three years back. The first Bollywood movie that I watched was ‘Ferrari Ki Sawaari’ while I was on a plane. I like to travel all over the world. I’ve been to India also. I think Kashmir is beautiful. I like ‘Barfi!’, ‘3 Idiots’, ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!’ and ‘Kai Po Che!’.

“I think ‘Finding Fanny’ was good too…it was different. ‘Bombay Velvet’ was great. I don’t know why it didn’t do well in India. The music and craftsmanship are so good. Even Ranbir Kapoor’s acting is so natural,” shared the enthusiastic Edmund, who watches at least one Bollywood film a week.

He is yet to see a movie of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, and is appreciative of the way Indian filmmakers are experimenting with genres.

Hema Arasan, 42, also has no qualms about watching movies with bold content, but said that there should be some control on films if children are watching.

“I mostly watch movies for entertainment. Bold themes are fine, but if children are watching, there should be some control,” said Arasan, who is part of the approximately seven percent Indian community in Malaysia.

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