sing song

Energy booster, geography teacher: The power of kissing in Bollywood songs can’t be understated

From land value to vitamins, kisses have been attributed with an array of powers in Hindi cinema.

Bollywood loves kissing. From coy to bold and zany to outright bizarre, Hindi cinema is filled with songs that celebrate putting that mouth to good use. It could be a simple peck on the cheek or the more forthright locking of lips – the allusions come in all shapes and forms.

Kisses have, over the years, even been attributed with an array of superpowers. Sample Chavanprash from Vikramaditya Motwane’s Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, starring Harshvardhan Kapoor and being released on June 1. In the song, Arjun Kapoor is seen gyrating with Anushka and Shibani Dandekar, and the lyrics elevate a kiss to an Ayurvedic energy booster. We are given to believe that it’s not exercise, a healthy diet or a strong constitution but a regular supply of kisses that are responsible for Arjun Kapoor’s strength.

“Tere chumme me Chavanprash hai,” sings Divya Kumar to Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics. “Vitamin jaisa har andaaz hai” (Your kisses have Chavanprash. Every dose is like a vitamin).

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Chavanprash, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero.

In Zeher He Ke Pyaar Hai from Sabse Bada Khiladi (1995), a kiss has the opposite effect. Instead of vitamins, it is attributed with deadly powers as Akshay Kumar wonders, “Zeher he ke pyaar hai tera chumma” – is your kiss poison, or is it love. Betrayed by his lover, Mamta Kulkarni, Kumar lets out his rage by channelling his inner Michael Jackson through pelvic thrusts galore. Biblical references are woven in for good measure through the use of apples and snakes.

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Zeher He Ke Pyaar Hai, Sabse Bada Khiladi (1995).

Even though Bollywood has until recently been circumspect about depicting kisses on screen, snogging songs have frequently made their way into movies. In the fantasy tale Pataal Bhairavi (1985), a remake of the 1951 Telugu film Patala Bhairavi, Dimple Kapadia works hard to seduce a stoic Jeetendra in Chumma Chumma. She gets right to the point: “Chumma chumma chumma chumma, mujhko banale priyatama,” she sings, going on to declare that she will die if he does not make her his darling. Despite her best efforts, Jeetendra seems thoroughly unimpressed.

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Chumma Chumma, Paatal Bhairavi (1985).

Perhaps the most famous example of a Bollywood song dedicated to a kiss is Jumma Chumma De De from Hum (1991). The song centres on the promise of a kiss from a woman named Jumma and on a Friday (Jumma).

The hit number features Tiger (Amitabh Bachchan) urging Kimi Katkar’s Jumma to fulfill her promise made on the previous Friday. Katkar wants to know what she’ll get in exchange for the kiss. She looks mighty pleased as Bachchan pleads with her to kiss him, as the crowd sings along in support, but tells him: “Maine badal diya iraada” – I’ve changed my mind. Even as he suggestively hoses her down with a pipe, she seems unrelenting.

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Jumma Chumma De De, Hum (1991).

Friday is the night for kisses even in the more recent Jumme Ki Raat Hai from Salman Khan-starrer Kick (2014). Here too, Khan is pursuing his objet de désir (Jacqueline Fernandez) for a kiss, but she seems less than pleased by the attention – that is, until she gulps down a few glasses of wine. Then, the reticence come off, the oomph comes on and acrobatics follow on the dance floor.

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Jumme Ki Raat Hai, Kick (2014).

In Choom Loon Honth Tere from Shreemaan Aashique (1992), the protagonist strikes a more earnest note. As Rishi Kapoor and Urmila Matondkar canoodle in a park, he showers praises on her, telling her of his desire to kiss her. Matondkar blushes at the compliments, but is too shy to fulfill his wish, making him contend at first with a peck on her hand.

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Choom Loon Honth Tere, Shreemaan Aashique (1992).

In Phenk Hawa Mein Ek Chumma from Ram Jaane (1995), the musical score is generously interspersed with kissing sounds, while computer-generated lips make regular appearances on the screen. Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla take their shenanigans to the beach, telling each other: “Phenk hawa mein ek chumma, mein catch karloon. Ishq kiya hai, ishq mein thodi ash karloon.” Both caution and kisses are thrown to the wind.

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Phenk Hawa Mein Ek Chumma, Ram Jaane (1995).

A kiss comes with a geography lesson in Ek Chumma Toh Mujhko Udhaar Dede from Chhote Sarkar (1996). “Ek chumma toh mujhko udhaar dede...aur badle mein UP Bihar lele”, Govinda pleads with Shilpa Shetty, trying to barter a kiss with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. He ups the ante, throwing Delhi, Punjab, Assam, Mumbai, Gujarat and West Bengal into the mix. The video shows him chasing her around, smacking her on the bum and harassing her in an array of ways.

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Ek Chumma Toh Mujhko Udhaar Dede, Chhote Sarkar (1996).

Kisses have high land value even in Govinda’s Tune Jo Liya Mera Chumma from Beti No. 1 (2000). “Tune jo liya mera chumma to Patna mein aag lag gayi,” he says, to which Rambha responds, “Tune jo ankhiyaan milaayin toh Dilli ki neend ud gayi.” The couple tours India through several other euphemisms over the course of the song.

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Tune Jo Liya Mera Chumma, Beti No. 1 (2000).

A more realistic assessment is offered in Labon Ko Labon Pe from Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007) as Shiney Ahuja and Vidya Balan engage in elaborate fore-foreplay as he pursues her for a kiss and more.

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Labon Ko Labon Pe, Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007).

Lip to Lip De Kissiyan from Katti Batti (2016) takes a more direct route to seduction. “French kiss firangi hai, desi kiss hi changi hai,” sing Imran Khan and Kangana Ranaut. Kisses are apparently more intoxicating than whisky, and their deprivation cause withdrawal symptoms. “Kissi bina guzre na raate, Kissi bina beete na din, jee lunga main tere bina, Nahi jeena teri kissi ke bin,” Khan sings, telling Ranaut that he can live without her, but not her kisses.

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Lip to Lip De Kissiyan, Katti Batti (2016).

The round is won by French kisses in Labon Ka Karobaar from Befikre (2017), a montage of smooches around Paris. Some serious tongue work ensues as people of all ages, shapes, colours and gender let their lips do the talking.

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Labon Ka Karobaar, Befikre (2017).
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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.