“One Night Stand”… Material for a major sexual-equality statement is trivialised by cast and director

Posted on May 9, 2016


Spoilers ahead…

For a while, One Night Stand plays out exactly like you expect it to. Gauzy red scarves brushing against skin. Horny men in Phuket. And a hookup. He’s Urvil (Tanuj Virwani). She’s Celina (Sunny Leone). His name means “sea.” Her name means “sky.” When he begins to flirt with her, she says sadly, “The sea can never meet the sky.” He pulls out his trump card. With a knowing smile, he points to the horizon, which may be something of a metaphor. The sky lies on top of the sea. In a few minutes, it’s no longer a metaphor. Celina is on top of Urvil. It’s one of those sex situations that exists only in the movies. The makeup remains intact. The bodies are perfectly depilated. There’s not a trace of sweat or exertion. There’s no “do this,” “faster,” “shit, do you have a condom?”, “no, not there, higher.” The bodies aren’t slapping against one another and tearing apart with Velcro-made-of-flesh sounds. The whole thing has an aerodynamic feel to it, like sex in space; people glide over one another in slow motion, and a tastefully arched back lets us know when it’s over. This is what it’d be like if Jane Austen wrote the screenplay for an Emmanuelle sequel. I half expected someone to ring a bell, so a butler could tiptoe in and gather the sheets.

This isn’t a plea for more realistic sex in the movies. This is just curiosity. Maybe thirty years ago, in the era of furtive peeks at Debonair centrefolds, these scenes may have been enough. But when porn is everywhere, who is going to watch a one-night stand that features about as much “nudity” as you’d find in a swimming pool? More curiosity. Who decides that it’s okay to say “fuck,” but “asshole” needs to be muted? Anyway, given the title (with its missing hyphen), we realise that this hookup is headed for a full stop. And given the trailer, which practically gives away the whole story, you know Urvil has a wife (Simran, played by Nyra Banerjee) waiting for him back in India. But a few days later, he finds he cannot get Celina out of his mind. And then, when shopping with Simran, he runs into Celina, who sees the couple and quickly looks away. You think she’s shocked that he’s married, that he lied to her. You think she’s Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, standing in for all femalehood, hell-hath-no-furious at being cast off so thoughtlessly, at being considered either a trophy sex object (at best) or a slut (at worst).

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And this is when the movie, written by Bhavani Iyer, gets really interesting. Urvil plays the Glenn Close character. He’s the one obsessed. Like most on-screen cheaters, he looked at Celina as a sex object/slut – even his flirtation with her came about because a friend made a bet that he couldn’t “get” her. She’s not the first woman he’s had outside his marriage. There have been many, and when a friend asks him about it, he says he loves his wife and he’ll never let these flings breach the walls of his marriage. You want to smash a fist into his smug self-righteousness. Underneath this “logical” explanation, you sense quite a bit of pride, the kind that’s evident in good-looking men who know they can get good-looking women and still return home to a loving wife who packs lunch dabbas to take to work. Imagine what a blow to the balls it is, then, when Urvil discovers Celina is married.

When it comes to straying women in Indian cinema, there’s always a because. Rekha strayed in Silsila because the man was rightfully hers before his sense of duty made him marry another woman (or maybe she thought, “Let me lure him away from her at least in a movie”). Mallika Sherawat strayed in Murder because she was lonely and neglected and hers, too, was a marriage born out of a sense of duty. Rani Mukerji strayed in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna because she was a mature woman married to a man-child – they were just wrong together. But Celina is happy. Her husband loves her. She dotes on their son. She’s attentive to her father-in-law. She is, in short, the kind of wife/daughter-in-law who’d be played by Renuka Shahane in a Sooraj Barjatya movie.

And though the film doesn’t underline this, you can see why Urvil is so upset. He’s the type who hires a rotund woman as his assistant because a “sexy secretary” would be temptation. (The prospect that someone could find this rotund woman attractive is unimaginable to him.) He is what some people in some circles would call a “typical male.” Earlier, Urvil was just fantasising about his encounter with Celina, he was just obsessing about the sex. But now, he sees she’s married to another man. In his fantasises, she was his and his alone, but in reality, she “belongs” to someone else. He thought he “used” her to alleviate the sameness that seeps into every marriage, but now he sees that she used him too, possibly for those same reasons. And this spoils his fantasy. His whore is a Madonna who, for a brief moment, acted like a “man.” She got her rocks off and now she wants nothing more to do with him. What an idea, madam-ji!

But what a missed opportunity. This is subject for a major movie, and by casting Sunny Leone (and with that title), you’re practically holding up a card in front of the theatre: COME IN FOR SOME SLEAZY KICKS. And how clueless does someone have to be to strike a blow for sexual equality and then close the film with a Sunny Leone item number that neon-highlights why men like Urvil think the way they do about women like Celina? Simran is an interesting character too. We see she knew about Urvil’s affairs, and she gets a good line: “This is the one I’m leaving you for.” But again, the casting, the plasticky staging – I’ve never seen this much eye-shadow on a woman slicing onions in the kitchen. How much better One Night Stand would have been with better actors, a more committed filmmaker than Jasmine Moses D’souza! The film is neither a gripping domestic drama nor a twisted psychological thriller. It’s just one for the history books, the first time a happily married heroine decided to act on an urge to sleep with a stranger. She isn’t punished either. Or even if she is, it happens off-screen. The guy, on the other hand, isn’t so lucky. He’s left with nothing but his dick in his hand.


  • Debonair = see here
  • Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna = see here

Copyright ©2016 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi