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Nudity in Mira Nair's Namesake

By Arthur J Pais in New York
November 02, 2006 16:15 IST
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Will the fleeting nude scene featuring Zuleikha Robinson in Mira Nair's The Namesake worry Indian audiences?
Peter Herbst the editor-in-chief of Premiere magazine wanted to know. Not to forget the kissing scenes, and the scene in which Zuleika and Kal Penn are frolicking in the bed.
Nair assured him that she wasn't worried at all, and she had made the film, based on a bestseller by Jhumpa Lahiri, for the entire family. She had not even made it for expatriate Indians, she asserted, adding that in fact, the film about an immigrant family in Boston and its emotional losses and gains, was made for a "very wide audience" across the globe.
She was participating, along with the film's lead Kal Penn, in a post screening discussion of the film at a New York theater on November 1, when her film had opened the sixth edition of the Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival.
Herbst -- clearly new to Bollywood -- pressed on, asking if it wasn't true that Bollywood films were chaste?
"I am sure the scene in my film is chaste enough," quipped Nair. And she hoped that the censors in India won't pounce on that single scene.
She recalled the fight she had with the Indian censors 10 years ago with Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love. Though she retained some of the film's many semi-nude scenes, it wasn't an easy fight.
She said just as the Censor Board was deciding the fate of her film, she had gone to see a couple of Bollywood films. In one of them she found at least 135 suggestive scenes with frequent thrusting of the pelvis. She did not name the film but she said the wet sari scene in the film left very little to the imagination.
Compared to the racy scenes in many Bollywood films, her Kama Sutra looked quite chaste, she added.
Photograph: Getty Images
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Arthur J Pais in New York