Sex and Vulgarity in Indian Cinema
How even the most powerful medium of mass communication, education and expression can be corrupted and abused to create an adverse effect, is best typified by the cinema. Indian cinema today has come to exemplify a mixture of crudity, depravity, vulgarity and obscenity of the worst kind. Sex and violence are the hallmarks of the run-of-the-mill Indian cinema, branded as ‘Formula Films’
Although there has been an ever-increasing ‘permissiveness’ on the silver screen the world over, Indian cinema has particularly come to be identified with crude vulgarity and nauseating depiction and exploitation of sex meant for pleasurably exciting the audiences. The formula also succeeds in leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the more mature viewers. The coarse handling of sex in Indian films has reached a disgusting level but excessive amount of such films continues without limits.
The showy world of Indian cinema is the creation of an industry in the own right which functions on a ‘profit motive’. The endeavour of each person making a film is not merely to ensure a good run and get returns for the money spent on it, but to make it a ‘hit’ with the people and earn maximum profits to fill his coffers.
To ensure box office success, the film-makers churn out a virtual mixture of melodrama, dance, cabaret, songs, scenes of rape, violence, fights, romance between the hero and heroine and so on. They aim at literally pulling the crowds to the theatre, not through any intrinsic quality or value of their films, but by cheap publicity, propaganda and gimmicks. The film audiences are fed on generous display of female anatomy. The films are promised to be ‘hot’ and exciting and devised ‘to bare all and show all’. Hoardings and posters are put up all over the town and entice many people in the manner in which Meneka lured and seduced Vishwamitra, the famous rishi. Come Friday and there is excitement in the air over the possibilities of new and ‘hotter’ films.
The typical Indian film is a mixture of the crudest forms of vulgarity. There is the comedian, uttering the filthiest of dialogues with puns ,allusive remarks usually depreciatory ones and phrases with double meanings of which one is usually indecent, to evoke cat-calls and whistles from the front benchers. Then there is the lovely-dovey pair of the hero and heroine bursting into spontaneous songs some of which have suggestive, vulgar, sexual connotations, with weird sounds for background music. The hero and the heroine are symbolized as two bodies with one soul and the hugging, petting and kissing that goes with it is ample pleasurable exciting stuff for the sex-starved viewers.
The so-called ‘romantic poses’ and gestures of the hero and the heroine would make even Vatsyayna, the author of Kamasutra, blush with shame and disgust at the cinematic depravity and coarseness. Besides, in most of the films rain is a convenient device to show the heroine drenched to her skin, the camera exposing her vital statistics to the viewers advantage. Crude suggestions of carnal love are greedily capitalized upon by the film-makers. The cabarets in old movies were a big attraction, with a scantily clad women whirling vulgarity to the “oohs” and “aahs” of the audiene. Above all, a rape scene or two is an essential ingredient of an average Indian film. Rather than rousing disgust, such scenes are treated in a manner devised to excite and arouse the viewer’s passions.
The vulgarity has thus become a major aspect of the average popular Indian films. It may, of course, be appreciated that sex by itself is not ugly or crude, it is the way in which it is treated in many Indian film that makes it obnoxious and vulgar. Film makers seldom ponder over the relevance of a scene with sexual overtones in the context of their story. Nor do they bother about the artistic value of such scenes. Their motto is: the crude the more profitable. Such a state of affairs has, unfortunately, crept into the regional films and the so-called ”art films” as well. Directors seem to think that a “bedroom” or “bathroom” scene is a must for every film.
The vulgarity of Indian films is not, however, confined to the depiction of scenes of sexual overtones. It is more than evident in the crude humor which is often part of the “sub-plots” in these films. Invariably the humor is at the expense of the nagging wife/hen-pecked husband, the witch-like mother-in-law or, what is least acceptable physical deformities or handicaps like stuttering and lameness.Furthermore, the lavish settings and glittering costumes forms a vulgar display of wealth.
The subject of sexploitation in film needs scanning and serious thought. While it is true that world cinema today has reached the stage of films on adult themes and pornographic and blue films, it is to be understood that it is only in keeping with the permissive culture of the West, their norms, values and attitude to life. The same can neither apply nor should be blindly aped in India. Our tendency to ape something alien to us has only brought crudity, vulgarity and obscenity to the treatment of sex and its many aspects on the screen.
Our sensor policy has always been paradoxical. It does not believe in a healthy and overt attitude to sexual and allied themes which are facts of life. The censor board adopts double standards regarding kissing and sex scenes and also distinguishes between Indian and foreign cinema and characters. All that is allowed to pass- the vulgar and crude suggestions and symbols, obscene dialogues and songs is most damaging and depraving to the impressionable minds of the viewers. The result is that a sex-starved audience accepts crude vulgarity and depravity to satisfy its lust for scenes of ‘daring baring’ on the screen. Significantly any International Film Festival held in India is the most welcome holiday from the censors, and there is a mad scramble for tickets sold at exorbitant prices. Black marketers thrive on the hunger of the sex-starved viewers and the so-called passionate lovers of cinema.
There are also sociological reasons for why such vulgarity proves popular. The Indian masses are poor but modern means of communications have enhanced their awareness of a world of glamour and riches. The film caters to the escapist desires of these masses. Also to be blamed is the low level of education which is inevitably factor in the degeneration of “taste”
The most damaging influence of crude sex and vulgarity depicted in Indian film is on the immature minds and those belonging to the lower rungs of the society. They develop a depraved mentality towards sex and it is therefore hardly surprising that there are increased instances of crude eve-teasing and even rapes in the society of today. The blatant and vulgar display of the female anatomy has resulted in a subtle but sure degeneration in the status of women. The crude antics of the “comedians” also have a detrimental influence on impressionable minds. As a result, we have to hear the nonsensical behavior of some of our university students which is often attributed to their “sense of fun and humor” What a corruption of taste such films have caused!
It is unfortunate that the film makers who hold such a powerful medium of communication in their hands should lack social commitment. Without such commitment the medium degenerates into a means of cheap entertainment which seeks to gratify the sensual desires of the viewers rather than make them over the problems of society. Thus, a means by which positive social action maybe brought about has been abused and made a means of negative influence. It is no justification to declare that the public wants scenes of sexual overtones and crude humor.
Film makers of worth could easily provide wholesome entertainment which might, in the long run, draw the public away from disgusting display of sexual scenes which have little relevance to the theme or plot of a film. There have been instances of low-budget films which have not depended on vulgarity to make a sale. One can only hope there will be more of such films and less of those that seek to excite the masses through obscene and crude humor.
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