New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) Time was when, on television, love used to be expressed with a comforting hug, a peck on the cheek or a warm embrace in dimly lit settings. Little did the Indian viewer imagine watching 30 minutes of steamy romance, replete with liplocks and bedroom scenes.
But that's what is happening now. A recent episode of Ekta Kapoor's "Bade Achhe Lagte Hain" saw its protagonists, essayed by seasoned actors Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar, getting more up, close and personal than most family audiences could digest.
It was the consummation scene - where the 40-plus rich hero took his marriage of convenience to a different level by showering his 30-plus middle-class wife with love and passion.
Aesthetically shot, the March 12 episode of the show, produced by "The Dirty Picture" maker Ekta Kapoor, took some audience members by surprise.
There's nothing wrong with boldness on the tube, say industry experts.
"There are two kinds of audiences on television -- one is the kind who sit together and watch family shows, and the other is a very niche audience that is open to watching intimacy and homosexuality on small screen," TV director Waseem Sabir told IANS.
"Intimacy has always been there on television, but it's important for it to be shot aesthetically," added Sabir, who has worked on shows like "Maryaada", "Saat Phere" and "India Calling".
The lovemaking scene in "Bade Achhe Lagte Hain" was backed by a tantalising trailer, which drew the required hype and interest in the episode.
But boldness isn't new to the small screen - be it through rain or drawing up the sheets or the dimming of the lights - directors have used different techniques to hint at physical intimacy in shows in the past.
In the 1990s, some went a step further in shows like "Tara", "Banegi Apni Baat", "Kurukshetra", "Hasratein" and "Justajoo", in which the telly viewers got to see liplocks and seduction.
The trend went off radar with the advent of family shows a la "Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi" and "Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki", which made premarital sex and extramarital affairs out to be taboo.
Purnendu Shekhar, writer of "Balika Vadhu", says with the kind of awareness young viewers have, it's time producers got mature with their scripts.
"We need to get mature at some point. Society is going through a change, the values are changing. People today have a more urban thinking due to a lot of media exposure. This change is inevitable and it is a natural process of life," Shekhar told IANS.
"There's nothing wrong if it is shown on television, especially if the script demands it. However, people should make sure not to go overboard as television is a family medium."
Director Ravindra Gautam, who directed earlier episodes of "Bade Achhe Lagte Hain", says "audiences have now opened up and parents don't feel shy watching romantic scenes on screen with young children".
But some viewers are worried.
"I usually watch the show with my husband and kids. But for this episode, I didn't know where to look or what to do," said Amrita Mehta, a housewife.
Another viewer, Kavita Sarin, a mother of two, said: "We can exercise a bit of restraint on what our kids watch when it comes to the big screen, but if family shows like this start showing intimacy, it gets difficult to keep kids away. It is weird to ask them to leave the room or change the channel."
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at email@example.com)