NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A decade ago, there was hardly a street corner in Indian cities that wasn’t plastered with sleazy posters of adult movies.
Over the years, the posters and the risqué “morning show” films they advertised have mostly disappeared from Indian cinemas.
But this month in New Delhi, a unique exhibition is trying to give these posters a new lease of life.
“When I talk to some young people...(they) do not know this whole morning show culture,” says V. Sunil, exhibition curator and owner of the poster collection.
Sunil says the attempt is not just to shock people but also help them reconnect with the forgotten past of Indian cinema.
Before the advent of the Internet and multiplex chains, cinemas across the country screened adult films in the morning before switching to mainstream fare later in the day.
The posters, often featuring scantily clad women in the throes of passion, appealed to cinema-goers hungry for a dose of erotica.
One promises a tale of live-in lovers, another asks “can a girl be punished for raping boys” and yet another carries the caption — “the good parts, the sexy parts, the body parts.”
The images and innuendos reflect conservative India’s awkward approach toward sex, where casual sex and couples who live together without getting married are still considered beyond the pale.
Some of the posters featured foreign women who were not part of the film.
“(Some would) cut and paste...some lingerie model from Vogue or some place,” says Sunil. “They were not actually in the movie.”
A poster of “Air Hostess Girls” shows a close-up of Brooke Shields, who starred in the 1980 Hollywood film “The Blue Lagoon” and unwittingly became the face of many of these soft porn Indian films.
Often, cinema owners would insert nude scenes from foreign films, including those from “The Blue Lagoon” into the so-called B-grade Indian movies.
Several years after soft porn films nearly died out, mainstream Bollywood has now shed its inhibitions to make a movie about a former sex symbol — and the movie’s own poster is reminiscent of the morning show style.
“The Dirty Picture” is based on the life of Silk Smitha, a south Indian actress who became a household name in the 1980s and 90s with her semi-nude scenes and brazen on-screen persona.
“She decided to make a career out of selling sex,” said director Milan Luthria when asked why he made the film.
But the movie attempts to portray Silk Smitha as a survivor.
“We did not want to make a spoof,” says Luthria.
Editing by Paul Casciato