'Love' means never knowing the truth

NEW DELHI — One theater in Bombay showing controversial Hindi movie “Ek Chhotisi Love Story” (“A Small Love Story”) was attacked by Hindi right-wingers because it allegedly showed too much female flesh.

Another venue showing the same movie was trashed by disappointed members of the audience because they said the film did not show enough.

The movie, whose plot is similar to the 1971 Hollywood film “Summer of ’42,” revolves around a young boy’s infatuation with an older woman (Nepalese-born Manisha Koirala).

Some are asking if the bitter row over the movie is just an elaborate stunt to gain publicity for otherwise mediocre fare.

Koirala kicked off the controversy when she demanded the film not be shown because she claimed nude scenes were shot using a double without her consent. Director Sashilal Nair claims Koirala knew and approved of the use of a body double. He rejected her request to delete the nudity, prompting her to take the matter to a Bombay court, which on Sept. 6 ordered the film not be shown.

Despite the court order, theater owners in Bombay and Delhi went ahead with the screening, arguing that the ban applies only to the film’s producers and distributors. Nair said he had not violated the court ban, as he had distributed 97 prints of the movie before the court ruling.

The body double, Jessica Choksi, also got in on the act and claimed her name had been revealed in court by the director in violation of her contract. She argued that far from remaining anonymous, her relatives and friends would know it was her who had taken part in the erotic scenes (by Indian standards).

Koirala, meanwhile, aside from applying to the courts, turned to the National Commission for Women as well as the Shiv Sena right-wing group to protect her honor.

The women’s commission agreed to take up the case, saying it would appeal to the Supreme Court to set comprehensive guidelines on the portrayal of women in films.

The Shiv Sena was more direct — its members barged into popular Bombay theater Gemini and forced it to stop showing the movie, chasing the audience out and damaging seats.

Then, another twist — Choksi suddenly did a U-turn and claimed the controversy was a fake, engineered by Nair, Koirala and herself to spark the curiosity of cinemagoers and generate publicity for the film. The other two have denied her claims; meanwhile, the saga in the court continues.

Nair’s peers are divided: Filmmaker Bobby Bedi says that if Koirala had read the script and agreed to do the film, “she would have known implicitly that either she or a body double would have to play the scenes.”

Another Bollywood director, Tanuja Chandra, says the actress has every right to “seek help from the courts in stopping the exhibition of the scenes which she says are obscene and dirty her dignity.”

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