‘Jism ki garmi’: How Hindi film industry disregarded consent and normalised rape and molestation over the years

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— Consider reading the article ‘Jism ki garmi’: How Hindi film industry disregarded consent and normalised rape and molestation over the years on OpIndia website —

The Hindi film industry aka Bollywood has a significant influence on the lives of people in India. From imitating actors and their dress sense to reciting film dialogues, the film fraternity shapes the outlook of the society. Whenever a rape case makes national headlines, we are forced to introspect on what bolsters a perpetrator to commit such a crime. We question the rape culture and the politicisation but often shy away from the causes. What has made rapes look so normal? There are several factors behind such a skewed mindset and Bollywood is partly to be blamed for it.

In the 70s through the 90s, Bollywood enthralled the Indian audience with a unique concept – Jism ki garmi (The heat of the body). Often used as a sensuous term to describe lust or an insatiable urge for a sexual encounter, the Hindi film industry redefined its meaning to normalise heinous crimes such as rapes and disregarding consent.

Twitter handle ‘Gems of Bollywood’ in a series of tweets pointed out how the A-listers of the Hindi film industry over the years watered down rapes and violating women’s bodies using creative euphemism.

In the movie Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973), Shashi Kapoor is seen trying his best to save the life of the actress Sharmila Tagore. With no option left to treat her illness, Shashi Kapoor strips her naked. He then puts a blanket over and claims that sleeping during a bad cold may induce death. The protagonist is concerned about her health. All of a sudden a voice prompts in his mind, which says,”There is one last way that can save her life without medicines. It is ‘jismani garmi’ (body heat). You need to take her in your arms and transfer your body heat to her.”

Shashi Kapoor then proceeds to undress his shirt, slips into her blanket and makes love to transfer his body heat to her. The science-defying exercise, however, helps to cure a dying Sharmila Tagore. On the following day, Kapoor tells the actress that he did not intend to take ‘advantage’ of her through his non-consensual sexual act but instead save her life. Instead of admonishing the actor, Sharmila Tagore says, “There is no price to save a life. I would have done the same if I was in your place.” In the end, both of them are seen as happy.

The recurrent theme of ‘Jism ki garmi’

In another film tiled ‘Badle ki Aag’ (1982), actor Sunil Dutt too comes across a similar situation. The actress, Reena Roy, has high fever and lies unconscious on the ground. The actor makes several desperate attempts, starting from lighting a bonfire to rubbing the actress’ feet. However, nothing seems to get her life out of danger. Dutt, who plays the character of Lakhan, is portrayed as a simple man who holds women in ‘high respect’. The actor then throws away her blouse and saree while she lay unconscious. He takes her in his arms and transfers his ‘body heat’. Immediately, the actress regains consciousness.

As part of the script, the actor justifies his decision to violate her body under the pretext of saving her life. Describing his moral values, Dutt states in the movie, “I respect women. I don’t play with their bodies.” As usual, the actress has no problem that the actor outraged her modesty. She understands his perspective and concludes that he is a God in the human form.

Rape is normal when done for ‘greater good’

The theme of jismani garmi and ‘rape therapy’, to cure women of high fever, runs recurrently across movies. The same is seen in the 1988 movie ‘Ganga Jamuna Saraswati’. The movie, named after three Holy rivers in the Hindu religion, shows a perplexed Ganga (played by Amitabh Bacchan) raping Jamuna (played by Meenakshi Sheshadri) out of moral obligations to save her life. The movie also describes the breaking of ‘hymen’ with creative euphemism of the tearing of a spider cobweb.

Nevertheless, Ganga is able to convince Jamuna for the non-consensual sex by claiming that their “hearts will now meet after their bodies have met”. To bolster his argument, the actor adds, “I have violated the laws of religion (by raping you). But from now on, I will follow the laws of religion.”

In the 1991 Akshay Kumar-starrer Saugandh, the actor has no time to call the doctor but manages to get time to impart his ‘bodily warmth’ to the actress, who is bogged down with high fever. When the actress learns about her ordeal, she attempts to kill her perpetrator. The actor’s friend intervenes and questions her, “Do you want to kill someone who saved your life? Whatever he did (rape in this case), he did as a decent and responsible man to save your life?”

When rapist is the hero of the movie

In the 1991 film ‘Benaam Badsha’, Deepak (played by Anil Kapoor) rapes Jyoti (played by Juhi Chawla) on her wedding night. He was hired for ₹5000 to commit the crime. Portraying himself as the mighty thug, Deepak claims that he can even rape his own mother for money. Ideally, such a character in the movie is that of an antagonist. However, this is not the case here.

Jyoti, the victim, tells her mother, “Daag mit sakta hai agar daag lagana vala sindoor laga de (The blot on my character due to my rape can be erased if my rapist marries me)” She is also seen giving love letters to her perpetrator and the hero of the movie, Deepak. Interestingly, the said film is the remake of a national award-winning Tamil film.

The problem with Bollywood’s portrayal of rape

While consensual kissing scenes were censored in Indian films for a long time, rape scenes, however, were never censored. ‘Sensuous scenes’ were displayed to the audience through an act of an assault, intended to outrage the modesty of a woman. In all the above-mentioned movies, it was depicted as a ‘duty’ of a man to save women, even if it meant having sexual intercourse without consent. Interestingly, none of the victims too had a problem with the assault, given that the perpetrator had somehow saved their lives. Besides, all victims fall in love with their perpetrators or end up marrying them.

The Hindi film industry has, knowingly or unknowingly, convinced a generation of people that rape is normal when done in light of ‘greater good’. It has also conveyed the message to the society that rape is pardonable if the perpetrator weds the victim. Bollywood thus mainstreamed the ‘mindset of rape’ in the sense that it always found an excuse to justify the heinous act.

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