Our Favourite Sex Symbols from Commercial Indian Cinema

Team FC

Rain check

Rain, particularly monsoon showers, has long been the setting for lovers meeting and finding, ahem, fulfilment in one another in classical Indian poetry. Unsurprisingly, rain has continued to be romanticised within the edge of its life in our movies as well. Who can forget ‘Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua’ from Shree 420 (1955)


If you’re looking for an everyday item that absorbs our general anxieties around sexuality and feminine desire in particular, look no further than jewellery. On one hand, there are sexist pearls of wisdom like when Devika (Jiah Khan) from Housefull (2010) says, “Sharam aur laaj toh aurat ka gehna hota hai (Shame and modesty are a woman’s treasures)”? And then there are the scenes from Girish Karnad’s Utsav (1984), in which the idea of sringaar (dressing up) is explored with spectacular sensuality.

Au natural

In Shekhar Kapur’s Mr India (1987)sparks fly between Seema (Sridevi) and Arun (Anil Kapoor), who owns an invisibility cloak. This contraption comes in handy when they want to be intimate. During “Kate Nahin Kat Te”, sung by Kishore Kumar and Alisha Chinai, the audience is left to imagine how Arun seduces Seema

Cut from the same cloth

Since 2000, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan have told cautionary tales about pre-marital sex and unplanned pregnancies, first in Kya Kehna (2000) and later, in Salaam Namaste (2005). Kya Kehna takes a more ‘Yash Chopra meets Mills & Boon’ approach with a trail of clothes and a shot of clasped hands dangled before us to let us know Priya (Zinta) and Rahul (Khan) have made love (in a field, no less).

Dream logic

A film that not only puts a woman’s desire at the forefront but also employs the female gaze to explore it, Aiyyaa (2012) had a hilarious dream sequence in which Meenakshi (Rani Mukerji), lusting after Surya (Prithviraj Sukumaran), dreams of Surya as a petrol pump attendant.

Thirst trap

Before there was social media, Bollywood found waterfalls to set up what can only be called the OG thirst trap. From Zeenat Aman bathing under a waterfall in a translucent white dress in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) to Mandakini in Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), and Vasu (Kamal Haasan) cradling Sapna (Rati Agnihotri) near a waterfall in Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), Hindi cinema has consistently turned to H2O to heat things up.

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