- Vinod Pande’s “priest sex movie” Sins – a psychological/romantic drama about a Catholic clergyman (Shiney Ahuja) who becomes sexually involved with a younger woman (Seema Rahmani), has infuriated Indian Catholic radicals.
Catholic priest sex movie leads to another round of Bollywood vs. religious censorship
Pakistani actress Meera has been mired in controversy in her native (Muslim) country for having kissed Indian actor Ashmit Patel in Soni Razdan’s supernatural Bollywood thriller Nazar. Joining her in the “Bollywood vs. religious radicals” fight is filmmaker Vinod Pande, whose “priest sex movie” Sins (2005) has outraged some Indian Catholic groups.
In all fairness, there seems to be much more than just priest sex titillation to the tortuous central relationship in Pande’s psychological/romantic drama.
Featuring both English-language dialogue and topless scenes, Sins chronicles the evolution of the affair – and increasingly warped balance of power – between a handsome Roman Catholic clergyman (Shiney Ahuja) and a naive, beautiful, and much younger woman (Seema Rahmani).
India’s enraged Catholics apparently refuse to allow the portrayal of members of the clergy in a less-than-beatific light. They had at first demanded that Sins be banned – and, following its Feb. 25 release, that it be withdrawn from circulation – but Pande has decided to keep his movie out there.
‘Isn’t this fascism’?
In an interview at Rediff, the director complained:
“Isn’t this fascism? Such intolerance for creative work is not acceptable. …
“I am responsible only to my producers. I hate to point this out, but haven’t people seen my earlier work? A boy-meets-girl story has never interested me. In my first film, Ek Baar Phir [Once Again, 1980], three decades ago [sic], the wife walked out on her husband without apology. My films are always about the pain and ecstasy of forbidden love. But I have never gone beyond my aesthetic boundaries.”
Religion as ‘personal affair’
Whether or not taking into account Sins’ aesthetic boundaries or lack thereof, the general secretary of India’s Catholic Secular Forum affirms that “religion needs to be a personal affair and should not be a subject for entertainment or for commercial use.”
So, does that mean “entertainment” and “commercial” fare like Mel Gibson’s controversial sleeper hit The Passion of the Christ, Franco Zeffirelli’s made-for-TV Jesus of Nazareth, and Cecil B. DeMille’s The King of Kings and The Ten Commandments should also be banned?
What about the Leo McCarey-Bing Crosby blockbusters Going My Way and, co-starring Ingrid Bergman, The Bells of St. Mary’s? Both Hollywood classics revolve around the Catholic clergy and members of affiliated communities.
Big-screen priest sex
Some have noticed similarities between Shiney Ahuja’s Catholic priest and the one Gael García Bernal plays in The Crime of Father Amaro / El crimen del padre Amaro (2002), Carlos Carrera’s Academy Award-nominated Mexican drama featuring Ana Claudia Talancón as the teenage object of the young padre’s affection.
Carrera’s film – and by extension Sins – also has elements in common with Antonio Capuano’s Pianese Nunzio, Fourteen in May / Pianese Nunzio, 14 anni a maggio (1996), in which a Neapolitan priest and social crusader (Fabrizio Bentivoglio) has a sexual relationship with an adolescent male (Emanuele Gargiulo).
As found in the Rediff interview, Vinod Pande says Sins was inspired by a 1998 newspaper report about a priest sentenced to death, adding that he later learned of “several incidents of priests in taboo relationships.”
And on a whole different note, let’s not forget Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education / La mala educación (2004), which offers an unusual depiction of child sexual abuse at the hands of a gay Catholic priest. The Crime of Father Amaro’s Gael García Bernal plays a (male) “femme fatale” of sorts in the Goya Award nominee and New York Film Critics Circle Best Foreign Language Film winner.
“Bollywood Priest Sex Movie” endnotes
Shiney Ahuja and Seema Rahmani Sins image: Yash Raj Films.
“Bollywood Priest Sex Movie Outrages Indian Catholic Radicals” last updated in July 2021.