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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Getting her wet

One had the incredible misfortune of catching a section of the ridiculously unimaginative Chocolate (with an 'e', as opposed Chocolat, which is quite the opposite). There is very little to say about the movie, that has not already been said by Arnab, so one shall say very little. But the sequence did catch my attention for one reason. To wit - it involved Tanushree Datta in a little pink dress touching herself provocatively while getting thoroughly drenched.

Oho, our man likes his women wet, eh? Well, that may or may not be the case, but its entirely besides the point. The point in this case being, that I felt compelled to add this sequence to my list of best Water On Women scenes in Hindi cinema.

Why, you may well ask, is it at all necessary to come up with such a list. What exactly is so remarkable about getting movie heroines in touch with the elements (or one element specifically)? And more importantly, what does one have to do to be on such a list?

Good questions all. To answer them, we shall participate in a quintessentially Bollywood flashback.

It all started when Raj Kapoor was sitting at the lunch table one day. His secretary entered and informed him that the censors had shot down his proposal for a moving, yet socially relevant and meaningful movie, on the grounds that the corner of an uncovered breast had peeped out in one sequence. Try as he might, he kept coming up against the censors' immutable law "No cloth on breast, you fail the test". Enraged after yet another unproductive meeting, he slammed his fist on the table, and ended up spilling a jug of water on his little son's 16-year old babysitter. In the split second after that, Raj had received three epiphanies at once. They were.

A) The veneer between innocence and obscenity is as flimsy as a sheet of cotton cloth, and may even be torn asunder by water, that most gentle of elements.
B) Screw the censors. Now I know how to get around that stupid law!
C) Whoa! 16-year old titties!

A study of his work will serve to demonstrate exactly how significantly he was affected by this moment.

So ingrained has the Wet Scene become in Bollywood, that it continues to be de rigueur in all movies, even in an age when actresses are more than willing to skip the subtleties and get right down to the skin of it. In fact, now it remains more as a pleasant throwback to a more innocent era, than anything else.

Getting back to where we started, how does one pick the most memorable such sequences. What criteria can we use to differentiate between them? Well, I rate them on the surprise factor, and imaginativeness in the setup.

Let me explain what I mean by surprise. The truth is that a Wet Scene is a tease, rather than a blatant overload of eroticism, so it kind of kills it if you know exactly what's going to happen. Unfortunately, the setup for such a scene is quite standard. Hero and heroine are outdoors and caught in a sudden downpour. Cue song. Sometimes, it will be a rendezvous planned in a desolate spot. At other times, one of the protagonists will be lured there by a spot of trickery. Vehicular breakdowns are also common excuses to get them out in the open, just in time for the heavens to open. If you see any of these situations, you know exactly what the weatherman predicted. Another giveaway clue is when the heroine changes into a sari in the previous scene, even though she may have been trotting around in salwar-kameez right up to that point. The easiest way around this is to build a dream sequence, but that's just lazy thinking.

In order to introduce an element of surprise, the director needs to construct elaborate Rube Goldbergs. Getting the heroine to land up under a shower that miraculously turns on at the last minute, for example.

This is in fact related to imaginativeness. Rain is very, very cliched. There are variations involving waterfalls, swimming pools, and other water bodies, but again, they are accompanied by very standard dance steps, and are just carbon copies of one another. Interesting props like strategically placed tubs, or buffaloes, for example, can add a great deal to such scenes.

On these grounds, picking the all-time best scene involving Wet Women was quite daunting. Chocolate did have a lot going for it - it involved a water pipe exploding after a shooting spree by an enraged Emraan Hashmi, and a motorcycle. It was also set in London in December, giving it high points on the surprise factor.

But ultimately, it couldn't beat that all-time classic, Qayamat: City Under Threat, in which Riya Sen ends up in a flooded tunnel after falling through a hole created when the floor of a historic stone prison fell through after a metal pole under it was struck by a coal scuttle on rails, in which Ajay Devgan and Ashish Chowdhry attempt to run from the villains. Oh, and she also loses her shirt in mid-fall.

Whew - methinks that will take some beating.

Before I finish, I will point out that its not just Bollywood that engages in such contrivances. Hollywood film-makers may not have to deal with morality guardians protecting little children from the detrimental effects of naked nipples, and so charades involving diaphanous white cloth and aqua pura are quite uncalled for. But nobody can resist an overly contrived plot point, especially if it results in women showing more skin, even if its completely against the grain of the story.

Using exactly the same criteria as above, I think the movie with the all time best Getting-the-Heroine-to-Strip-down-to-her-Underwear Hollywood Scene is undoubtedly Deep Blue Sea, in which Saffron Burrows is forced to strip out of her wetsuit because of a subplot involving naked electric wires, super-smart sharks and a floating journal in an undersea laboratory. Do you really need to know the details?

PS - This post is very wannabe-great Bong, and I apologise for the plagiarism. However, if you must copy, its usually better to copy the best, though not always.

Also - Please read this blog.