Over the past week I watched two Hollywood flicks that were sautéed with pretty decent action and plots and both had extra marital sex and adultery thrown casually into the plots. One, the adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s “Painted Veil” and the other with a much young Robert de Nero and Al Pacino in the cast. In the genre of infatuation, "The Summer of 42” is still etched in memory though.
The subject matter is not the film but depiction of certain foibles that was shown as an attribute in man-woman relationship in western culture. In many literary fictions and Hollywood films-something that seems to be at odds with oriental thinking have been often seen. Even in the works (English) literature by Indian authors on the “Raj “and as well as the British writers of the early twentieth century, the western dame was shown as voluptuous and fast. Or did I read only such allegedly profane books that flourished on the banal theme? Nay, the lecherous eyes of the brown skin native clad in loin cloth roving with irresistible lust when he serves tea to the fair skinned mem sahib and while she watches the gora sahibs play polo have been artfully mentioned in many works placed in the era of the Raj. And then the lonely soul she is in the strange and humid land, cast away from the cool climes of Victorian England seek the warmth and acrid smell of the brown skinned native. The hungry wolf!
In one of the film, the villain of the piece meets a young and sophisticated woman in a restaurant and though the conversation was begun rather rude they vibe well and spend the evening together and have sex. The cliched exclamation that I would have uttered in my young age, would have been, “lucky bastard” (!).But in the present time, though I envied the fellow, I was quite amazed as to how a woman could agree to be in bed with a stranger – a man who she acquainted only for a few hours. It was something that a harlot would be inclined to.
Now, the Hollywood flicks are a plenty that pictures such instance. This in fact was titillating in the age of freewheeling youthfulness. It may have crafted a distinct picture of the western woman, I’m certain not in me alone but among the ones of my generation. A ravenous breed, hungry for sex and willing to devour any man! This was also the theme of the most obsessing books I read when I was about fifteen or sixteen-“Venus in India” and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. Longed from then on to sail across to the West! “Heat & Dust”, the Booker prize winning work of Ruth Jabwala which was later made into a acclaimed film by Merchant & Ivory was at par. It only added to the allure and fantasy of a carefree life in the West.
An absolute chimera it turned out to be! And not one, even one of the Western women I have chanced to associate with, offer to reenact the plots. It is true as far as I could understand that they are tactile in association (man-woman), something we Indians see as to be distanced and frowned upon. And most of all the halo of virginity, a concept that may have been foisted on cultures by the male psyche is of no great reverence in the West.
I and C were discussing about a couple of films we saw that had adultery as the wicked. They were zestfully enacted and were appealing. Did it matter if the spouse has a fatuous fling? We wondered! In a context yes it did, it does. I feel, foremost it is the possessiveness than the moral precepts that haunt or pester when such adventures come to light. And that is the matter in any society occidental or oriental. It is possessiveness and the good lord's commandment is only incidental.
As for the libertine ways of men and women, perhaps we have more hypocrisy and shallowness in relationships in our societies than in the West.