There are certain forces at work in Indian films which make the realistic depiction of romantic scenes impossible.

It would be unfair to blame the Censor’s code alone for the strictures placed on the representation of celluloid love, for the fault lies also with the public, and in part with the players themselves.

The common source of these handicaps could be traced to attitudes that are generally involved in what is loosely termed “our culture.”

According to my view, our romantic scenes seem to fail for several reasons. I will try to outline some of them here.

The commonest and most important obstacle is the public’s insistence on stories about youth.

In India, youth means the very young. Traditionally, a girl is considered marriageable when she is scarcely more than a child; she may be a mother at fifteen, and is quite likely to be a grandmother at the advanced age of thirty!

Therefore, by common conspiracy, the heroine of a story is always assumed to be in her early teens.

Creating a story around a girl in her early teens imposes certain limitations on her behavior.

Being so young, she has neither the skill nor the understanding, to deal adequately with the world.

She cannot display the maturity of mind, for that would be inconsistent with her age.

And there are very few modes of conduct that are natural to a very young girl.

The range of her behavior is, consequently, restricted. This results in a particular type of acting that in monotonous.

Indian filmmakers, and also Indian picture goers, appear to have set ideas on how a young girl should behave!

On the appearance of the hero, the smitten girl sucks her fingers, chews the end of her dupatta, runs, and hides or pouts and lisps.

This is intended to convey innocence and charming confusion. Innocence is the second most important ingredient in the character of a heroine.

This quality is displayed less by the purity of outlook than by being infantile.

It would seem to be inconceivable to everybody concerned that a young and innocent girl should be able to conduct herself with dignity while she is in love.

Another handicap to a proper approach to love scenes is the existence of ideals. We have the ideal Indian woman, the ideal hero, the ideal vamp, and the ideal villain.

None of these ideals can be violated. Out films seem to be more concerned with the depiction of ideal types than of people as they actually are.

When the ideal heroine is in the clutches of the ideal villian, he would display unmitigated villainy were it not for the last-minute intervention of the ideal hero.

The situation that follows is an ideal one in which two ideal people must behave ideally.

Clearly, these ideals rob our characters of vitality. There is room for flexibility, for the personalities involved are not of real people but of types.

This also may be the reason why our films on thought-provoking subjects have so little impact on the minds of the public.

The force of the thrust at injustice, or social disgrace, is destroyed by its content of unreality.

There is no true identification with the people or the situation. The file does not strike hard enough, or close enough.

If we let our minds run backward over American films made during the last fifteen years, we will notice that there have been crops of pictures on various national and other vital problems.

And those films accomplished their objectives because they brought the problems close to the people.

Love is not an experience that is reserved only for the young. Anyone may know love at any time.

Not even old and crippled are exempt. According to the traditions films seem to perpetuate, a man or a woman who outlives the first flush of youth without marrying is discarded forever on the rubbish heap of life.

If they are depicted at all, they are incorporated in abnormal situations. There are very few stories of the middleaged in love that are not ridiculous.

And life is full of people who have had to forgo love for a while to look after aged parents, helpless younger brothers, and sisters, and lack of dowries.

All these are excellent material for stories with effective romantic scenes, which would give our actors and actresses scope for better and most of us are called upon to do under the present circumstances.

These factors and the belief that screen love is necessarily indecent make the romantic scene about as easy to handle naturally as a high explosive bomb.

I have played several kinds of romantic scenes, some sincere, some silly, some naive, and some sad.

My earliest films were “Bahar” and “Ladki”, and I remember their scenes best for their buffoonery.

In “New Delhi” with Kishore Kumar our romance developed during long rickshaw rides around the city, Kishore showing me the sights.

During the filming, I remember, Kishore and I in a rickshaw attracted the attention of everyone in the streets of Delhi.

The high point of the romance was a love scene in a boat. The day the scene was shot thousands of college students surrounded the lake so that I was in constant danger of tipping the boat over through sheer embarrassment.

I could hardly concentrate on the scene. Then I have had a series of rather tough romantic scenes that have left me bruised and aching.

The first of these was in “Yasmine”. The film had a number of scenes that called for riding.

I was glad of that, because I enjoy riding, and I went to a lot of trouble to do them well.

Eventually, however, the riding sequences were cut from the film. Of the scenes that reminded me, one had the hero Suresh, overwhelmed with love, drag me by the arm with such violence that it took several sessions of massaging before I recovered from the aches.

“Nagin” had a similar incident. The villain is dragging me off when the hero arrives on the scene.

He grabs my other arm and tugs me in the opposite direction. For several excruciating minutes, I am the live and suffering link in the infernal tug of war before the hero pulls me away from the villain.

Although this exciting episode added to the romance, I was sore with severe bruises on my arms and knees.

“Nagin” also remains in my mind for some amusing incidents that took place during rehearsals for romantic scenes.

Those of you who have seen the film will remember the sequence where I have a snake coiled around my neck and the hero comes and unwinds it.

A huge live snake was brought to the set for the shooting. I refused to touch it. “It’s quite harmless,” assured the director. “Look at that manhandling it.”

One of the men coiled the reptile around his neck. The snake began to exert pressure on its coils, pulling itself tight on the man’s neck.

It was hastily unwound and taken to hospital with a high temperature, though I was never able to find out whether as a result of some illness or his experience with the snake.

A less active snake was found and we went into rehearsals. This one was more delicate than a prima donna.

It couldn’t bear the heat during the takes and had to have a fan trained on it most of the time, and several times during the afternoon had to be taken to a cooler room.

In fact, it got better treatment than the stars of the film. Another romantic scene in “Nagin” that sticks in my mind is the forest idyll.

The hero sits on a rock while I am in the waters of a forest pool, playing with a lotus. The scene was shot in December.

Several days before the scene was taken, a tank was filled with water to represent the pool.

When it was time for me to get into the water, it was icy cold. Four heaters were put to the corners of the tank to raise the temperature made a difference whatsoever.

I got into the water and stood and shivered. The director called for action, and I was supposed to speak my dialogue.

My teeth were chattering so that I couldn’t utter a word. “Speak up,” said the director, “and smile”.

I grimaced with a numb face. “Where’s the lotus? Hold it up.” I raised my arm. The lotus rattled as though with ague, while the hero, warm and comfortable, smiled encouragingly at me.

I was very glad to finish that scene in a hurry. “Sitara” too had a bathing scene, but this time the hero was in the water.

We arrange a rendezvous in the forest. To test my feelings for him, my lover dives into the pool and hides in the water.

I come and look for him. When I don’t find him, I feel disappointed and call for him plaintively.

He then emerges when my back is turned and catches me by the ankle. This scene was effective and not at all uncomfortable for me!

“Naya Daur” had a touching and quite realistic love scene. A girl returns to her village after spending several years in the city.

She engages a tonga to take her home, and the tonga-wallah, who is a friend of her family, takes an immediate interest in her.

When they arrive at her house, the tonga-wallah lingers, looking at her, and is unwilling to leave.

His scrutiny becomes embarrassing. “Don’t you think you should go and see whether anything has been left behind in the tonga?” she asks!

“What?” he says dazedly. She repeats her question. “Nothing is left behind,” he says, his eyes still on her.

“You had better make sure,” she tells him. Reluctantly he leaves the room. During the rehearsal of a romantic scene in “Madhumati”, I had another frightening experience, for I almost ran off a cliff.

We had gone to Nainital for the shooting, and I hurt myself several times slipping on the rocks.

One of the scenes called for a tryst between the lovers. The spot was chosen. While waiting for my lover, the villain came upon me on horseback and began to chase me.

In my excitement, I completely forgot the limit the director had marked and kept on running towards the edge of a cliff.

Suddenly I heard everybody shouting and pulled myself up just in time! The love scene I liked best is the modeling scene in “Madhumati,” when I tire of sitting still for the painter, who is Dilip.

I fidget, and he talks to me to keep me interested. “Do you know what lies behind that hill?” I ask.

“No” he says. “Why?” I say surprised. “the sun’s cave is there, where it sleeps at night.”

“I didn’t know that,” he says, tenderly amused. “Of course,” I say. “It climbs out of the cave and crosses the sky. In the evening it goes behind that hill.”

I point to the west. “There is a deep tunnel that joins that hill and the cave. It travels down the tunnel before I can get to the cave.”

“Really?” he says indulgently, and very tenderly. “Yes,” I say. “I thought everybody knew that.”

This is one scene of naivete that was very beautifully depicted. As a rule, however, with the various don’ts to consider in enacting a romantic scene, a screen love scene has about as much relation to actuality as a shadow has to substance.

It is left to the skill of the director and the insight of the artists, working in close, and creative, cooperation, to infuse the pale vesty with life. – Filmfare 1959

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