Kissing controversy

Westernization causes consternation in India after Bollywood actors lock lips.

Published December 6, 2006 11:56PM (EST)

We love Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai, and we're pretty thrilled to see her branching out in the types of work she does. Unfortunately, as noted in today's Post-Tribune, some of that branching out could hurt her career: A criminal suit has been filed against Rai and Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan and for kissing onscreen in the recently released action flick "Dhoom 2."

A court recently agreed to hear lawyer Shailendra Dwivedi's case, which he filed last week and which accuses Rai and Roshan of "lowering the dignity of Indian women and encouraging obscenity among Indian youth," the Post-Trib reports. (Kissing is taboo in Indian films, and actors are almost never seen locking lips.) Legal experts agree that the case will almost certainly be thrown out of court. But the paper notes that these kissing tensions speak to a growing gap between the Westernizing and urbanizing Indian middle class and the rest of the country.

As increasing globalization has many Americans falling for Bollywood culture, so are international media bringing young, middle-class Indians the same explosion-riddled, bloody, boob-filled entertainment that we variously enjoy and criticize in the U.S. According to the article, social norms in India are also slowly changing. Young people enjoy more freedom than ever before, including the ability to kiss without their parents watching. But kissing in public is still a no-no, and actresses still guard their reputations to maintain the appearance of chastity, lest they bring shame on their families.

The "Dhoom 2" smooch may seem like a small step for the culture that gave the world the Kama Sutra, but it's caused a small uproar in India this week. We just hope it won't set Rai back any.

By Adrienne So

Adrienne So is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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