Meet Bollywood’s first ‘intimacy supervisor’ Manisha Basu

In the wake of #MeToo movement, Hollywood took a step by introducing ‘intimacy supervisor’, who would supervise the shoot of intimate scenes between actors on sets. The trend caught Bollywood’s attention and Celina Jaitley became the first Bollywood actress to have an intimacy supervisor to monitor her shoot. On the sets of her comeback film Seasons Greetings, Celina has Manisha Basu who has been appointed by director Ram Kamal Mukherjee and producer Aritra Das as an intimacy supervisor.

Dainik Bhaskar got in touch with Manisha to understand her job profile and how the said profession will be beneficial for Bollywood. Read On…

Q How aware were you of the so called job of an intimacy supervisor?

Frankly speaking I had no idea about this term ‘intimacy supervisor’. When director Ram Kamal Mukherjee approached me for Seasons Greetings I was not completely aware about my responsibility but he explained to me how it functions in Hollywood and there are certain guidelines which one needs to follow. 

Q Tell us about your background. How did you get this job?

I have been working in Mumbai and Kolkata for last 5 years, I am a dancer by profession and I am associated with Bollywood actor Gracy Singh’s dance troupe. I was first approached by associate director Saikat Das to come on board as Intimacy Supervisor and he mentioned that director Ram Kamal Mukherjee will explain me my responsibilities. This came in as complete surprise but I took it up as a challenge because this was new, and anything new excites me as a creative person.

Q What are the skills one needs to have to become an intimacy supervisor?

There are no special courses (in educational institutions) to become an Intimacy Supervisor. You need to be sensitive and sensible enough to make your actors comfortable while they are executing intimate scenes during the shoot.

Q As an intimacy supervisor what are you expected to do on a film set?

Before the shoot I had to sit with my director Ram Kamal Mukherjee and lead actors Celina Jaitly and Azhar Khan to understand the scene. Both actors had their individual concerns about the intimate scene which was primarily addressed by the director. Since Celina was making a comeback after marriage and motherhood, she had her reservations regarding the intimate scenes to be portrayed in the film. I spoke at length with her and made her comfortable with the choreography of the scene, so that she knew exactly the ‘moods’ that we were planning to shoot. While Celina had her reservations male actor Azhar was also concerned about his shots. Since he was bare body and was wearing shorts he wanted to know the exact camera movement while they were supposed to do the love making scene. I consulted with the director Ram Kamal and cinematographer Pravatendu Mondal and after they explained me the frames I conveyed to Azhar Khan.  Barring the cinematographer who was the only male member in the room every other male member was asked to leave the room for the actors to perform the scene, only I along with Celina’s female staff were present physically inside the room while everyone directed the scene through the monitor.

Q As an intimacy supervisor you be protective towards heroes or heroines? How do you balance your act?

It’s a very nice question and frankly speaking I had this question in my mind before taking up this responsibility. But when I was in the field I realized that both male and female actors are professionals and they had only questions pertaining to the scenes and their comfort level. There was no ego or gender biases on the sets. My producer Aritra Das and Shailendra Kumar were extremely supportive and had given me enough freedom to handle the situation with my own intelligence.

Q What are the powers an intimacy supervisor has?

As Intimacy Supervisor I had the power to stop the shoot at any given moment  if my actors complained about their discomfort. Even the director and cinematographer was aware of this power. 

Q Would you continue being an intimacy supervisor in the world of movies?

Currently, I have shifted to Kolkata due to my family commitment and I am working as a relationship manager in one of the leading digital portal and also doing and will continue to do these odd jobs as and when they are offered to me (laughs).

Q Is there a future in this field?

Considering Indian cinema is growing bolder by the day and creating content for various platforms we will soon have high demand for Intimacy Supervisor in all such films. After #MeToo movement in Bollywood most artists have become cautious about their deeds. But having an intimacy supervisor not only helps the director and the cinematographer to execute the scene smoothly but also ensures that there is no sexual harassment or abuse of an artist during the shoot.

(Story by: Onkar Kulkarni)