India Notebook

Sex in Indian cinema has traditionally been off-limits -- two characters kissing in the prone position is still considered scandalous -- but some bold local producers have decided the time has come to push the Bollywood content envelope.

"What excites me is that audiences are now ready to accept films that are challenging the norm," Viacom18 Motion Pictures CEO Vikram Malhotra says.

Viacom18's slate includes the edgy drama Shaitan, which has raised eyebrows with a trailer that features two young women kissing. Producers hope the buzz around the film will help it compete with Hollywood blockbusters when it opens locally June 10.

Indeed, smaller, edgier films have lately been faring well in India. The thriller RaginiMMS, with its voyeuristic, hidden camera-style sex scenes, has become a sleeper hit. Produced by Mumbai-based Balaji Telefilms, the film is the latest release from its "alternative" banner, Alt Entertainment, which produced last year's most controversial release, Love, Sex and Betrayal, an exploration of India's changing sexual mores.

In its first week, RaginiMMS grossed an estimated $2.2 million against a budget of $1 million. It's an encouraging sign for local producers seeking to shake up an industry long dominated by sexless Bollywood song and dance epics.

Says Malhotra, "This is a great time to be a filmmaker in India."

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