Back in April, Gulabo Sitabo director Shoojit Sircar wrote a prophetic Instagram post: “How will the cinema world shoot intimate scenes? Especially kissing/hugging scenes. How close or how far.. in those intimate scenes?.”
As Bollywood gears up to resume its operations after a three-month hiatus, it seems Shoojit’ Sircar's random musings were a pointer to the 37-page ‘Back to Action’ published by the Producers Guild of India suggesting to filmmakers to avoid intimate scenes, at least for now.
The absence of intimacy dictated by social distancing may well take Bollywood back to the era flowers having sex.
Director Gaurav Panjwani is clearly bemused. “With so many restrictions, it’s difficult to shoot intimate scenes now. We are not in an era where showing two flowers or birds coming together when we want to show a kiss will suffice. So we need to wait till things come back to normal,” he indicates, stating that otherwise, a whole lot of planning will be required before such shoots.
Unlike Gaurav’s measured assessment, veteran filmmaker Sanjay Gupta, whose Mumbai Saga is in post-production, speaks plainly, when he says he doesn’t see the need for these guidelines.
“Narratives are not going to change. If there is a scene required in the film, then it is required. If the actors have tested negative, then what’s the problem? It’s just as simple as that,” he asserts.
Filmmakers are certainly trying to find a middle ground to get their productions on track. Sachin Mohite, who helmed Gandi Baat, popular for its risqué content, feels that directors will have to get imaginative to get the ball rolling.
“When certain things are not allowed, you use cameras and lights. So also, for intimate scenes, a lot will depend on how you place the cameras and lights. Directors and camera operators will have to use these tools smartly without compromising on the scene. We can’t rely on VFX alone because most of the time they are used for larger-than-life scenes. Intimate scenes, on the other hand, are between two people, so it has to be done keeping in mind certain aesthetics,” says Sachin, who is known for always shooting intimate scenes with a limited crew. However, not all filmmakers have been able to wrap their heads around the new directions.
Filmmaker Abhinay Deo, for instance, says that the global pandemic has also limited filmmakers to their present geography. “I have no idea how things will work out,” Abhinay points out, “but we have to reinvent as an industry.”
“Certain segments that rely heavily on intimate scenes and can’t be done away with will require filmmakers to get creative as that’s the need of the hour,” he adds as matter-of-fact.
The ayes and nays have it
Interestingly, the guidelines by the Producers Guild of India over ‘shooting no kissing and hugging scenes’ have caught many filmmakers some whom are members of the guild, too, by the throat. One such member, who finds fundamental faults with the new directives, is filmmaker Mani Shankar.
Pointing out that the guild has no authority in interfering in the creative process and narratives of filmmaking, he calls the directive an ‘error in judgement’.
Quite like Sanjay Gupta’s assertion above, Mani Shankar also wonders why the guidelines should prohibit anyone who has tested negative for the virus.
“The whole objective of the guidelines is to help not spread the contagion. So if a cast that has tested negative is game to shoot intimate scenes, what’s the problem? Actors are shooting intimate scenes only after thoroughly checking the script, so you cannot change the script then and there,” Mani Shankar points out.
However, National Film Award winning film writer and producer Himanshu Sharma, who penned for films such as the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Zero and the Tanu Weds Manu series as well as Raanjhanaa, seems to relate to the new directives.
For starters, he believes that changing the narratives of the film depends on the respective cast and crew.
“I believe such guidelines have been framed because the safety of the film unit is vital during these changing times. With that being said I think these guidelines are short-term and won’t really matter in the long-term,” shares Himanshu.
“Moreover, actors need to be comfortable shooting for intimacy scenes, if necessary. And possibly, there could be a change in the narratives and the filming pattern until fresh guidelines come in.”
“As of now, there are no such steamy scenes I have written,” he states simply.
So, is it back to the basics?
Even as filmmakers await fresh guidelines and mull over how tricky it would get to implement the new guidelines of the Producers’ Guild, some filmmakers are unafraid to share that these protocols will only make the process all the more cumbersome.
Filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma (RGV), for instance, is unforgiving when he states, “Those who follow these guidelines can never make a film, and those who make films will never follow this code of behaviour.”
Then, pointing out that there will be no change in the narratives of his films, RGV says, “Most of these decisions are made by people who don’t have any work. It is ridiculous because none of these rules can be enforced practically.”
Mani Shankar openly states that he cannot change the narratives.
“I will not change my narrative and story; instead I’ll go to Sri Lanka, Singapore or Thailand and shoot my scenes as per laws of the land there,” he insists. “Otherwise, I’ll have to make both the actors kiss plastic dummy and later remove that plastic and join them using computer graphics. Or maybe I’ll show two flowers coming together.”...