You cannot turn on the TV nowadays without being bombarded by trailers of Basic Instinct II with a 48-year old Sharon Stone trying to reprise the role of femme-fatale Catherine Trammell , the hypersexual novel-writer with a propensity for ice-picks and cigarettes and a queer affliction of restless-leg syndrome from the cult classic, Basic Instinct (1992)
Incidentally, I cannot rid myself of the feeling that in some dark corner of the world, Dev Anand is chuckling to himself—Sharon Stone at 48, me at 84. Both sultry sex symbols.
Over the years, Basic Instinct has spawned so many B-grade wannabes [identifying characteristics: 1) blurb inevitably contains one or more of these stock words “Dangerous”, “Passions”, “Dark”, “Obsessions”, “Twisted” , “Lust”, “Seduction” and “Double-cross” 2) cover art consists of shadowy bodies or a skimpily dressed lady with a gun/knife in her hand.] that I doubt a sequel can promise anything new either in terms of story (really who cared) or in terms of shock.
But even then, I will still go to watch Basic Instinct II—-simply to pay obeisance to the phenomenon of the original.
Before Basic Instinct (BI for short), Indian teenagers languished in the age of ignorance. There was no internet and cable TV was just in its infancy. For the average teen, erotica (or “hot scenes” as they were known as then) was defined in terms of buxom ladies getting wet under a waterfall. The “bad boys” went a bit further peeping at dubbed Mallu soft-porn –a world inhabited by people who looked like the “Before” picture in weight-loss infomercials. And the real demented ones tried to sneak into film festivals for uncut Swedish movies by growing a moustache.
In all, total hormonal misery.
And then BI came. Like manna from heaven. The memories of those days: hushed whispers in the boys room, missed tuitions, the knowing smiles from the black marketeers when, clutching your school bag, you whispered: ” 1 Basic Instinct please”.
BI opened up a new world for us—globalized our sexual desires so as to speak. For the first time, we realized that we had been living, like frogs in a well, satisfied by drenched women and the likes of Neetu Singh and Asha Parekh while fires raged on all around us.
But not any more.
Because now, thanks to BI, we knew. We knew about strobe lights, underground discos, bodies pressing against each other, bumping and grinding, threesomes, girl-on-girl action, domination, bondage and other assorted kinks that we had no idea existed.
And most importantly, we knew that there existed a world out there, where you need not run around trees and swear undying love in order to get laid.
You could just walk in and start shooting.
The question that defined our grandfather’s generation was:
“Where were you when Mahatma Gandhi was assasinated?”
For our fathers (in Bengal at least) it was:
” Did you ever have Naxal sympathies?”.
For us it was:
” Where did you see Basic Instinct?”
So where did I see BI? Aaah there’s a story behind that.
I had first read about BI in Time magazine and needless to say my interest was aroused. It came to Calcutta unannounced but in a very short time, through “word of mouth” publicity, it had become quite a rage. Everyone in school was going to see it: of course surreptiously. It was the only topic of conversation during tiffin breaks. I needed to see it quick so as to not become a social outcast.
My mother is extremely liberal (in comparison with mothers of the same socio-cultural milieu) and always asked me to be “honest” and “upfront” and ask for permission for each and every activity. She also commanded a lot of fear for which I knew that if I tried to do something secretly and got caught—well let’s leave it at that.
So like a good kid, I asked her: “Ma can I see Basic Instinct?”
Now this is not as bizarre as it sounds: a year or two ago I had scandalized my friends when, from the street, I had shouted to my mother 3 stories up:
“Ma can I go to see “Pretty Woman” with my friends?” [“Pretty Woman” was very risque in those days]
Coming back to BI, my mother was okay in principle but then she asked my father. No was the answer: his son was not going to see a movie of debauchery until he was an adult.( My father is the conservative guy in our family: he didnt take kindly to me seeing ‘Three’s a Company’ when I was 10 years old. [This was in Ithaca where I spent a part of my childhood].)
As a result of my father’s decision, while my friends gushed about Sharon Stone’s shenanigans, I sat stone-faced, burning with teenage angst at the detrimental effect of my fear-induced honesty.
And so the day I turned 18, I again asked my parents: ” Now do I get to see Basic Instinct?”
My mother said: “Okay now you are fine. Go to the video library (Neha video library for any of you oldtimers) and get it.”
But I was not finished.
I said :” But this time, Baba has to come with me to the Video Store and I shall get BI with him—he had prevented me from seeing it the first time, this time he shall take me there.”
Yes it was tough being my parents. Actually it still is.
So that was it. My 18th birthday. Baba and I went to Neha Video Library. I took BI and proudly walked upto the store-owner and told him to make an entry into the book.
The video man was aghast. He called my father aside and whispered to him in a state of catatonia:
” This is adult stuff.”
My father told him: ” It’s okay. I know. He has turned adult today.”
Back home, after my parents had gone to bed, I popped the video into the VCP. And through the horrible camera print, the muffled dialogues, and the unacceptable video noise at “those” places which have been rewound over and over again, I experienced my first whiff of official adulthood.
The world now lay before me like a supine Sharon Stone.
My basic instincts had been unleashed.
[Update: Do read this rocking account of the BI experience from yourfan2]