India is set to get its first Playboy club next month, with demurely dressed bunnies and a focus on glamour instead of sex.
The club's promoters are striving to recast the Playboy brand so that it won't spark a backlash in a country that has only slowly come to terms with deep kisses on the big screen. That means there won't be nudity, but there will be bunnies — though whether they will sport bodices, bunny ears and cotton tails remains in question.
"Bunnies are an integral part of Playboy culture," said Sanjay Gupta, the chief executive of PB Lifestyle. "We will have bunnies but keeping in mind Indian sensibilities, we are toning down the costume. We are working very closely with Playboy to design a bunny outfit for India."
He said the details of the Indian bunny costume are "confidential."
PB Lifestyle is a Mumbai-based company with an exclusive license from Playboy Enterprises to open Playboy clubs, hotels, bars and cafes and sell Playboy branded merchandise in India.
The first club — a 22,000-square-foot (6700-square-meter), open-air property on Candolim beach in the tourist hotspot of Goa —is scheduled to open in mid-December, followed by a second club in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad early next year, Gupta said.
Though Indians may soon get to mingle with bunnies on the beach, they still can't buy Playboy magazine, which is banned in India.
Gupta said he wants to separate the powerful Playboy brand from its adult associations, remaking it as an aspirational lifestyle brand for the growing Indian middle class.
He pledged to build clubs his wife would want to visit and plans an aggressive advertising campaign to strip his venture of any adult associations.
"We will dissociate from nudity completely," he said. "We are positioning it around lifestyle, aspiration and glamor."
So far, the company has been vexed in that effort, with media outlets plastering photos of Sherlyn Chopra, the first Indian woman to pose nude for Playboy magazine, next to articles about the club.
"I have nothing against her, but as an Indian lady she is associated with Playboy magazine," Gupta said. "PB Lifestyle has nothing to do with that."
He said the company plans to invest $37.5 million to open clubs, bars and cafes over the next five years, with a goal of opening 120 outlets, including retail stores, over the next decade.
Local officials will be monitoring Gupta's efforts with interest.
"Assuming there is going to be vulgarity and activities that are not in tune with the Goan culture, their proposal will not be granted permission," said Nikhil Desai, Goa's director of tourism. "However, they could be setting up a perfectly decent club."