'Jism 2' Producer Talks Porn With The Wall Street Journal

Aug 22, 2012 9:00 AM PST

MUMBAI, India — Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, the mastermind behind casting adult star Sunny Leone in his film, "Jism 2,” sat down with The Wall Street Journal recently to discuss the state of erotic films in India.

Although the mainstream erotic thriller “Jism 2” sequel is a far cry from any typical erotic film, no less any porn movie, the movie did cause a storm of controversy in India because of its “taboo” nature, and has vaulted Leone into near superstar status.

Besides the Bollywood buzz, the movie has opened up dialogue about the nature of erotic films in the morally conservative county.

Bhatt, who is best known for producing and directing dramas is at the forefront of the new wave of Indian sex-themed films and told the Journal that he took the plunge into erotica Indian cinema in 2002 when he began to “gratify," rather than "edify" audiences with erotic thrillers like “Jism 1” and “Raaz.”

“The commercial success of these films made it clear that if we wanted to stay afloat without leaning on star power, we would have to bank on this genre,” Bhatt said.

Bhatt blasted the Indian populace for being hypocritical about sex on the cinema.

“Good people fall in love and only bad people have sex. That’s the culture so-called custodians of our culture have driven down. People who claim that these [erotic] films contaminate our sacred Indian space are the same ones who actually love watching them. Its Indian hypocrisy at its best: Give it to us but don’t tell us that we want it.”

Bhatt told the Journal that Indian audiences won’t admit their lust for these types of films, and noted that the box office belies their outward posturing, pointing to “Jism 2” that made nearly $1 million in its opening weekend.

“I have made a bunch of serious films as well but none of them can come close to even the toenail of the business that this film has done,” Bhatt said.

Despite “Jism 2’s” success,and Leone's "steamy performance," Indian moviegoers and some critics said it was too conservative, illustrating Bhatt’s point that  the public is yearning for more explicit films. He noted that “the audiences were clamoring for sleaze and not the filmmakers.”

“The filmmakers were trying to drive home a concept that there is a yearning to find conservative love in the porn industry, which was portrayed by Sunny Leone’s character. People were not willing to tune into the narrative, which was a slow burner. Instead, they were superimposing their own perversion, which comes when a porn star is cast in a film, and that made them believe that the movie is not dirty enough,” Bhatt said.

He did confirm however that Leone’s porn appeal jumpstarted the film's marketing campaign, calling it a huge victory.

But Bhatt lamented about the overriding taboo regarding sex in Indian movies and said “mindsets change very slowly." He hopes hwoever that Indian audiences will drop their façade and admit that they want to see more explicit films, admitting however, “As of now, we’re still far from being emancipated.”

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