Perhaps it was the sight of Amitabh Bachchan and Parveen Babi lighting a cigarette after lovemaking in Deewaar, or Mandakini under a waterfall in Ram Teri Ganga Maili but for many generations in India, movies were our window into a world of sexual feelings and sensations. Movies are what introduced us to the tingle of arousal in the first place, long before we knew it was arousal. For some, it was a delightful discovery, for others (mostly those who were trapped in cinema halls with their parents) a confusing moment they look back on quite gleefully. But what were the movies that first turned our libido lightbulbs on? Have the kind of movies that turned people on changed? Do some movies excite only some people?
Here are several kinds of movie sexiness that people told us marked the first time a movie made them horny.
Everybody doing it together
Some famous movies just did it for everybody. These were movies that entire generations of Indian men and women from Mumbai to Agartala remember lighting their fire. These movies burnt like that post-coital cigarette in Deewaar.
Kamal Haasan’s back: “For me, it was the lovemaking scene in Nayagan, and I bet it was for a whole generation of Tamilian women too,” says Lalita, an RJ in her thirties, “There was something about that scene, where they’re in bed, it was so unexpected. You mostly see Kamal Haasan’s back. I was about 6 when I watched it, and I remember feeling tender and sweaty at the same time.”
Fun fact: Did you know that TIME Magazine included it in its list of “All-Time 100 Best Films” in 2005?
Sharon Stone’s missing undies: Abhishek, a tech executive in his thirties, credits Basic Instinct with awakening his, ahem, basic instincts. “There’s a scene in the movie wherein the girl gets investigated in the police station. She wouldn’t be wearing inners and kind of spreads her legs – that was the scene for me.” Debolina, a Bangalore-based queer woman in her thirties says, “I watched Basic Instinct in 6th standard, and I’ve been crushing on Sharon Stone ever since.”
The sand on John and Bipasha’s bodies: Akhila, a transport company executive, remembers another movie that did it for a lot of people. “That scene in Jism where they’re rolling around on the beach in the sand! I was just watching it with my mouth hanging open, and I soon realised something was happening, because my vagina was wetttttt.”
Special mentions: the nude painting scene in Titanic, the lovemaking scene in Original Sin, Demi Moore in Striptease.
My own special secret
While some people remember the movies that their entire generation relates to, there are others who remember their sexual awakenings coming from movies only they seem to have heard of.
Girl talk: For 28-year-old media professional, Yaana, it was Midaq Alley. “I was flipping through channels at age 10, and saw this playing on MGM. It’s a depressing movie about the complicated lives of middle-class Mexicans and feels very ‘real’, somehow. It felt awkward and shameful almost, like I was peeking into the private lives of people. The part that first got me hot and bothered was when the woman is talking to this other girl about how she’s still a virgin and the friend chides her and tells her how she would be embarrassed if she were still a virgin at 16, and there’s a man watching them as they have this conversation. There were many words spoken and the quality of that conversation made me feel a certain way.”
Panic at the theatre: Shyam, an artist in his thirties, says, “I was in my teenage, and watching The Diary of Lady M. I remember my eyes flew wide open in one scene where the heroine is nude but wearing jewellery and seduces the hero, who is sitting on a sofa fully dressed, drinking wine. I don’t remember much, I was just looking at her nude body, and felt a violent commotion of hormones in the body.”
Others recall just as obscure movies, like China Moon, as having given them their first taste of horniness.
Movies that followed us everywhere
Some movies crop up again and again in people’s memories, not just because they were so good or so popular, but because Indian audiences simply couldn’t get away from them. You remember back in the day, when the fare on television was way more limited, and movie channels would often run the same movies on repeat?
Patrick Swayze’s pottery skills: “I remember the first time I saw the famous pottery scene in Ghost on TV, I must have been about seven or eight,” says 24-year-old Ahana, a data analyst, “It was such an odd feeling, I felt like a warmth in the back of my throat, rising up my chest and collarbones. It was something I’ve never felt before, and I knew it was different from anything else.”
Fruit juice: “Blue Lagoon was like my favourite guilty pleasure. I watched it so many times as a child. I remember seeing it for the first time on TV when I was about ten or eleven,” says Meena, a 23-year-old student, “My mum changed the channel immediately, and I knew that I didn’t want the channel to be changed, so I remember noticing that feeling. The scene that really did it for me was when they’re having sex for the first time, and he licks the juice of some fruit off her,” she says.
Cruise control: Anusuya, a queer woman in her thirties says, “For me it was Interview With A Vampire, I saw it on Star Movies at around age 10. There was this bedroom scene with Tom Cruise being pawed at by all these lingerie-wearing succubi. I couldn’t uncross my legs for the remainder of that.“
When the (wo)man makes the movie
SRK’s Adam’s Apple: For 35-year-old Vidhi, it was all about SRK. “I was in second standard when I saw young Shah Rukh Khan’s Adam’s apple bouncing in Fauji [1988 television series, SRK’s on-screen debut]. I realised only a few years later that I was feeling desire for him.”
Manisha Koirala’s air-bite: Artist Praveen, 24, recalls how his sexual awakening was all about Manisha Koirala. “It happened during the movie Gupt, but it wasn’t the movie, or even the scene. It was just Manisha Koirala. She looks at Bobby Deol sleeping and pretends to bite him in the air. That was so sexy! I remember a completely unique feeling – tingling sensations – and I was happy, but there was a sense of intrigue, which made me think that what I was feeling is an ‘adult feeling’. It was the excitement of imagining myself in the future, with women who have such long wild hair, and who wear these weird stylish clothes which nobody around me wears. And then trying to imagine the older versions of myself, of my friends, and how it would be.”
Angelina’s full body: “I was attracted to Angelina Jolie’s body without knowing I was attracted to it!” says 23-year-old lawyer Puneeth, about watching the movie Original Sin when he was 10 or 12-years-old. “I had no idea what was happening in the movie but I remember watching the whole thing, just mesmerised by her breasts. A few years later, I saw her body in those tight outfits in Mr and Mrs Smith and felt the same way. It’s definitely her”.
Movies that showed me who I am
Many gay people, especially in hindsight, credit movies with giving them their first inkling that they weren’t heterosexual, although they may not have registered it right away.
Role play: Meena says, “When I watched the sex scenes in Blue Lagoon those first few times, especially that first scene when he’s on top of her, I remember feeling like I wanted to be the guy. I didn’t think much of it then, but it makes sense now.”
Gender bender: Lalita feels Aamir Khan led to her first inkling that she was into girls. “I was about six years old when I saw Aamir Khan in Qayamat Se Qayamat Taq. It’s actually one of the first movies I ever remember watching. I remember a mysterious feeling during those scenes in the forest and also the kissing scenes. There was something about his girlish face in that movie that just worked for me. I should have figured out that I’ll turn out to be bisexual right then!”
Scissor sisters: Ashni, a 25-year-old theatre professional from Nepal, vividly remembers Blue Is The Warmest Colour giving her some unexpected feelings. “There’s like a 15-minute scene in the movie when they first have sex. It’s so raw and organic and sensual. Especially how their thighs flex while scissoring, which in real life I can never imagine accomplishing, so that was very fascinating and erotic for me.
Special mentions: Wild Things, American Beauty, and the sight of Pierce Brosnan in a swimsuit in Diamonds are Forever.
Desi music videos
Everyone knows how sexy music can be, and for many, music videos were their first introduction to sexy feelings in the first place. For many kids in the 90s, the new medium of music videos, especially independent “item numbers”, came to replace movies as their first exposure to sex, like Rakhi Sawant in Pardesiya.
Close quarters: 23-year-old artist Nidhi recounts a scene in the DJ Aqeel remix of Keh Dun Tumhein. “I was six years old, and saw the part where he throws her on the bed. It doesn’t even show sex or anything, but just the idea of having someone’s body so close to mine got me feeling a bit tingly.”
Singing in the rain: Sarita, a journalist in her 30s, remembers a song from the Tamil hit Roja. “Pudhu Vellai Mazhai was what did it for me. It was like the height of erotica in those days. The movie came out 25 years ago, when I was six, but I saw it on TV a few years later. I remember automatically rubbing my legs together while watching it and realising that that felt good.”
Special mentions: Bheegey Hont Tere, Tu Cheez Badi Mast, Tip Tip Barsa Paani.
A couple of younger people mentioned the Pussycat Dolls as the first realisation of their own sexual feelings, particularly a song called Buttons. Mischa, who dates women, remembers Britney Spears’ bright-red catsuit getting her all hot and bothered without knowing exactly why, while Rachel points to Kevin from the Backstreet Boys for, both, awakening her sexual feelings, and letting her know that she was into guys with long hair.
There are many more that didn’t make it to the list but the range of movie genres that turn people on is wide. For some, animated movies and shows like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Mask did the job, while others reported having complicated feelings about rape scenes they saw early on that affected the way they think about sexual pleasure in their own lives.
As we sift through each generation’s memories, one also notices how for older folks, a certain set of movies tend to be (sexually) iconic, whereas younger people presumably had more exposure to more media (and also porn).
For as long as there has been cinema and TV (and now the internet), parents have been afraid of their children learning about sex from the media. If there’s one thing to take away from everyone’s incredibly diverse answers, it’s that people are turned on by a whole variety of stimuli, from red spandex to Shah Rukh Khan’s bobbing Adam’s apple — things that no parent or censor could have predicted or blanked out. Perhaps, because movies are innately and unpredictably sexy – just like people.
Do you remember the first movie that turned you on? Was it a movie that taught you what it is to feel sexually aroused? Tell us about it.