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HindustanTimes.com  SmartZone  HT City  News Story Friday, April 2, 2004
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The bare truth: Sex doesn’t sell
Vinayak Chakravorty

Mallika Sherawat, self-defined “Audio Visual Viagra”, is bindaas  when you tell her the promos of her new film Murder are hot. “Showcase aisa hai to socho godown mein kitna hoga (if the showcase flaunts so much, think what the godown has in store)!” she quips.

Pity, producer Mukesh Bhatt’s muse (he has declared that Mallika is Bollywood’s new-age Mumtaz) didn’t mouth the line before the film’s release. Else, Bhatt could have used it as a punchline to sell his latest ware.

But that’s beside the point. Punchline or no punchline, Bhatt as much as Karan Razdan, director of last week’s flesh cart Hawas, and Aruna Raje, whose Tum  bombed recently, must have realised a hard fact: In a country where watching films is still regarded as a family outing for an audience that swears by its annual Karan Johar hit, sex doesn’t sell. Of course, Khwahish, with Mallika’s 17 smooches, made money, as did Bipasha Basu’s Jism  and Manisha Koirala’s controversy-fuelled Ek Chhoti Si Love Story (you’d say that Market is a hit too, but then so is Bijlee Aur Bandook – have you heard of the film?).

On the other hand, the flop list is an extended one: Boom, Oops, Paap, Tum  and Hawas  (average only in parts). Even Murder has hardly taken much of a start. Mallika’s take: “So-called family films may draw bigger crowds. But everything from Satyajit Ray to Murder has its own audience.”

Bollywood’s sex romp won’t stop. Lined up are shades of lesbianism (Girlfriend), a bored housewife and her three lovers (Musafir), a third Unfaithful rip-off after Hawas  and Murder (Husn), and tales of prostitutes (Dukaan, Julie). Says Amrita Arora, who stars in Girlfriend with Ishaa Koppikar: “If our film talks of one girl’s obsession for another, it also has great music, comedy and romance. It’s an all-round entertainer.” Are audiences ready for sex as a formula of entertainment? 

 Jism  To Julie: Bollywood’s raunchy run

Shortly before the release of Pooja Bhatt’s Jism, the film that kickstarted it all, her scriptwriter dad Mahesh Bhatt said: “The family film formula has been exhausted. Besides, everything from news on TV to newspaper headlines aim at providing an adrenaline rush. Films like Jism  only discover new terrain to satisfy an audience that has seen it all by now.”

Bhatt was slightly off the mark. Pooja’s next film Paap  (again scripted by dad) would bomb. And a hyped fare like Khwahish  is a success more due to its midget budget than to Mallika Sherawat’s minuscule bikinis. Forget films that wholly peddle sex.

Even ventures like Boom and Janasheen that aired promos primarily centred around a skin show have gone bust. Of course, that isn’t stopping Neha Dhupia from signing an exclusive contract with director Deepak Shivdasani to bare as he wants in the forthcoming Julie.


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Hindustan Times Ltd. 2003. Reproduction in any form is prohibited without prior permission.