Posted On Sunday, August 05, 2012 at 09:05:07 AM
It seemed like 31 years ago when as a fresh-off-the-boat student in New York City I stood staring at a row of porn theatres on 42nd Street, trying to muster courage to see my first X-rated film.
|Sunny Leone spends most of the time breathing heavily in the film
Times Square in those days seemed like the hub of porn cinema, occasionally peppered with stores selling more adult stuff — magazines, toys and a few theatres that would show martial arts films.
That seedy life of New York is all but gone, replaced with family focused tourist attractions (the Disneyfication of Times Square as some people have referred to the change) including Madame Tussauds that just added one more Bollywood wax statute to its collection — this time of Salman Khan.
But on Friday I remembered that one moment three decades ago, as I stood at nearly the same spot. Instead of a row of porn theatres, I was facing AMC Empire 25 multiplex and I was trying to muster courage to spend $14 to see Jism 2 starring (I guess I should say a former) porn star, our own sardarni from Canada — Sunny Leone.
Watching porn films in my early 20s was mostly a solitary experience. There was perhaps one time I saw a porn film with a friend, who is now a chaired professor at an elite college in New England.
The theatres were dingy, always dark, running the films 24/7. One could walk in at any time and leave in the middle of a film. It was not like one had to get the narrative arc of the plot. I also saw Jism 2 alone (with about 15 people in the theatre), but that was because no friend of mine was keen to join me.
There was something illicit about going to a film in Times Square staring a porn star. I sheepishly sat in the corner of the theatre, hoping no one would recognize me. The film began with earnestness, but soon it collapsed into one silly contrived love triangle, with Leone showing two or three expressions.
Most of the time she spent breathing heavily, which indicated any one of the multiple emotions – she was scared, she was excited, she was sexually turned on, she was sad or she was bored and just pretending to look interested. Leone may have been the Penthouse Pet of the Year, but there was no suggestion of porn in Jism2.
The sex — if there was any — was so mechanical and staged, that the audience around me was laughing. An hour into watching Jism 2, Iwas bored with the elevator music playing as background score and heavy dialogues about love, duty. And I began to think about the porn I watched in my 20s.
That was good stuff. Those films had one purpose and that was it. The filmmakers and actors did not take themselves seriously and did not think they were going to provide some life changing form of entertainment to the audience.
Jism 2, on the other hand, has no purpose other than to showcase its lead actress, but alas the film would not dare to explore her one talent. One final note about Jism 2. A few weeks ago director Pooja Bhatt tweeted that her father Mahesh had said that Jism2 was India’s answer to Last Tango in Paris.
That statement was so shocking that first I did not know how to react. But as time has passed I have calmed down and feel that the father and daughter made that statement (it is also used in the film’s publicity material) out of ignorance. So here is my offer to Mahesh and Pooja Bhatt.
During my next trip to Mumbai I am willing to show them Last Tango in Paris. I will bring my own DVD. I want them to understand that Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1972 film is a devastating story about a broken man, coping with his wife’s suicide and driven into a few hellish days of anonymous sex.
It is a film about lonely people, a merciless city, with a magical jazz score. I think it is preposterous to suggest Jism 2 is anywhere similar to Bertolucci’s film.
Breaking the stereotype
► This is with reference to Aseem Chhabra’s column ‘The other side of Nepal’, (PM, July 28). Chhabra has given interesting insights into the perception about Nepal while speaking about journalistturned- director Deepak Rauniyar and his criticallyacclaimed film Highway. Although the Himalayan nation has a violent past and had seen political uncertainty after the end of monarchy, the government there has been very careful in handling its media. It has done a superb job in portraying Nepal as a beautiful country while in reality it is not different than any other part of the world. Rauniyar’s film attempts to break this stereotype. The film has evoked some interesting responses from the Nepali audiences. This is a healthy sign for commercial films in Nepal as the entertainment industry is still in a nascent stage. The responses show that people are noticing serious work and over the period of time they will develop a liking for quality cinema.
- Abishkar Khadka
► It is a promising sign for Nepal as a film with a small budget and entirely homegrown actors has been noticed globally.
- D G Zagade