A new Bollywood film has put the spotlight on changing sexual mores in small-town India, unsettling conservative filmgoers with spy cam footage and pushing the limits of the country’s censorship board.
“Love Sex aur Dhokha” (Love Sex and Betrayal) is the latest in a series of avant-garde offerings stripping the Indian film industry of decades of inhibition and dramatically changing the traditional formula of song-and-dance romances and violent revenge sagas.
The film, which opened in Indian cinemas last week with an adults-only rating, has courted controversy with blurred visuals of a naked woman and voyeuristic sequences in its trailers.
Director Dibakar Banerjee says “Love Sex aur Dhokha” is more about a change in attitudes than it is about sex.
He says the film explores the lack of privacy in the modern world — one where even mobile phones can capture, and broadcast, intimate moments.
“What my camera is doing is that it’s recording a story that is changing in front of the camera,” says Banerjee. “Earlier, sex used to be behind closed doors but now that is changing.”
A decade ago, when a coy couple were about to kiss on screen, the camera would glide to two flowers brushing against each other or birds pecking at each other’s beaks. Indian audiences just assumed the couple had done the deed.
In that sense, Banerjee’s film, with a bunch of unknown actors, broke new ground with an extended sex scene which didn’t quite escape the censor board’s scissors.
But it’s the director’s use of unconventional cameras — spy cams, handycams, supermarket security cameras and even underwater ones — that seems to have won over the critics and drawn comparisons with Hollywood blockbusters “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project.”
The story is told from the point of view of the camera, making it almost a character in a plot that interweaves three storylines — a student who falls in love with his film’s lead actress, a shop manager who traps an employee in an infamous MMS scandal and a sting operation on a rock star.
“The film effectively exposes the fat, sexual underbelly that sags out of the middles of this disturbingly prejudiced middle India,” critic Mayank Shekhar wrote in the Hindustan Times.
Although critics agree “Love Sex aur Dhokha” marks a big leap for conservative India, it might take more than a few films to change mindsets.
When director Banerjee spoke to his mother about the project, she didn’t repeat the name of the film because she didn’t want to use the word ‘sex’.