The Politics of Kissing

Steve Spence
Updated: 14 November 2017

In Sum....


  1. Kissing is increasingly accepted in India today, both on the streets and in Hindi films.

  2. These changes are quite controversial, in part because of the role played by romantic love in decades of Hindi film-making, where it has been presented as a symbolic resolution of social tensions and conflicts.

  3. The controversy surrounding kissing in fact reflects broader tensions about the effects of globalization on Indian culture and society.


Kissing NY Times article

Aseem Chhabra, columnist, Mumbai Mirror

It’s not like you can walk on the streets of Delhi and Bombay and see people kissing. It’s still a big taboo.

Citations of sources in these slides

Harris, Gardiner. “In India, Kisses Are on Rise, Even in Public.” New York Times, 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.


Virdi, Jyotika. “Re-Reading Romance” and “Conclusion.” The Cinematic ImagiNation: Indian Popular Films as Social History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP (2003): 178-214.

“Re-Reading Romance” (207)

In fact, next to the hero’s ‘action’ in Hindi films, romantic love is the most potent force that overcomes the nation’s ills. The all-powerful force of heterosexual love resolves class conflict, the city-country divide, and communal strife.
DDLJ embrace

Shilpa Shetty vs. Richard Gere

Richard Gere kisses Shilpa Shetty Demonstrators burning Shetty poster

“The Kiss”: SRK and Katrina Kaif in Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)


The scene from Jab Tak Hai Jaan looks quite tame to fans of Hollywood-style filmmaking. But as the next slide illustrates, it was big news in the world's second-largest country.

SRK breaks a 20-year rule

SRK explains his choice to kiss on screen

Dr. Sanjay Srivastava, Delhi University

That kiss was an incredibly important moment....Shah Rukh Khan defines what is mainstream. If he does it, it becomes acceptable.

Dr. Sanjay Srivastava, Delhi University

Until recently, kissing was seen as Western and not an Indian thing to do. That has changed.


The SRK Kaif kiss