The quote by Mark Twain, "If God had meant for us to be naked, we would have been born that way" sums up how I feel about nudity.
I had the recent experience of performing nude in a film and to my surprise I did not feel the way many people would have you believe it should feel. In my observation, a lot of actors in India would agree to do a nude scene if they felt the scene was necessary for the film, but often they don't end up doing so. They are deterred by the fear and cultural pressure of maintaining their image, by the feelings of their families and relatives, the reactions of the majority of the audience and maybe now also right wing fundamentalists who might threaten to cause damage to property, if not bodily harm.
I am aware of the possible angry reactions, pervert phone calls and disapproving messages that one might receive if nude scenes are shown in screens freely, but I support freedom of expression even though it may offend some people.
Nudity in cinema or television is very common in the majority of western countries as well as a number of East Asian nations, but it remains very controversial in Indian cinema. It's possibly due to the fact that it challenges the community's standard of modesty. This standard varies according to the culture that judges what is exposed, who is exposed, why it's exposed, and then professes what's acceptable and what's not!
In my experience, undertaking the scenes with nudity was extremely liberating. I had many complexes about my body since I learned about it as a child, and the invasive stereotyping and sexualisation of both men and women in this industry didn't help. The obsession with slimness, flawless skin, long legs, round ass, big boobs, fair skin... it all made me feel very small. But to my surprise after doing the nude scenes all these complexes just fell apart. I was fortunate to work with a team, which had the intelligence of dealing with them delicately as well as with a sense of normalcy. There is something therapeutic about nudity. There is a comfort, acceptance and a sense of celebration when you can connect with your fellow beings with the thought that we all are the same. We look the same, and yet we are unique. There is nothing to hide, everything is flesh and bone. Everything has beauty; it's up to us to see it.
The major issues that our country is facing reflect in our behaviour, our opinions and way of thinking in general. While poverty and the ever-burgeoning population constantly challenge the spread of education and awareness, I wonder why the so-called educated lot cannot be a bit more educated about nudity. Why can we not treat it as a matter of fact? Because of all the secrecy and prudishness, there is so much shame and disgust attached to it, that it's treated as something alarming or unusual.
There is nothing to hide, everything is flesh and bone. Everything has beauty; it's up to us to see it.
Now that we have finished shooting, there is a worrying discussion about what should be edited out for the Indian version of the film. I am aware of the possible angry reactions, pervert phone calls and disapproving messages that one might receive if nude scenes are shown in screens freely, but I support freedom of expression even though it may offend some people. I also feel that people in my field can use their position to intelligently and actively break these barriers and promote progressive thinking. What is more provocative - the natural nude form of the human body or the obvious and continuous objectification of both men and women on screen? I often find myself speechless at the spectacle of silicon boobs and high bikini lines thrusting against a man with bulging muscles in many of our highly successful Bollywood films.
Nudity is not new to Indian cinema. Our film industry is very progressive in many ways with so many actors, writers and directors trying to break free. Many of my co-actors and colleagues have done nude scenes in the past or are venturing into such projects now. I am very fortunate to have had an opportunity myself. I am not selling nudity. I am saying it's as normal as wearing clothes. We choose to wear clothes due to several reasons, but why should it make us ashamed of nudity?