Increased Amount of Adult Content in Indian Media
By: Aisha Yaqub
Recently the Indian Government – specifically the Information and Broadcast Ministry – has banned two hugely popular Indian Reality television shows from prime time broadcasting on channels, due to the fact that there was an increasingly amount of adult content on these shows. The shows are ‘Bigg Boss’, India’s version of UK’s hugely popular reality television show called Big Brother and Rakhi ka Insaf (Rakhi’s Justice). There was a public outcry over the fact that these shows had become too “raunchy” to be broadcasted at prime time.
Even though the Ministry has banned the channel broadcasters from broadcasting it before 11 PM, the Government and the affected channels have not yet confirmed about this new ruling. Why did these shows get banned? The fourth series of Bigg Boss, the reality television show attracted headlines all over Indian newspapers and raised a lot of eyebrows, with the arrival of scantily clad Hollywood celebrity Pamela Anderson in the Bigg Boss household. Not only that, but kissing and cursing has also become quite common and given birth to a lot of scandals.
Rakhi ka Insaf which means Rakhi’s Justice is another reality television show, which came under public scrutiny. It was badmouthed for its host’s reputation and credibility, the skimpy costumes worn by the host and the fact that a person committed suicide after appearing on the show. There was a nationwide uproar when that happened, because the host had called that person “impotent” on the show.
It had such an effect on the person that it forced him to commit suicide. There arises a question, should these kinds of shows and content which are somewhat adult in nature be censored by the channels. Especially since New Delhi Television’s Imagine channel has started a new movie campaign, promoting no censorship of the movies being broadcasted on their channel. These movies are shown at prime time on a weekend, where it is more likely that kids will see them too.
Two schools of thoughts argue on the matter of censorship in general and with regards to the Indian Media. One school of thought says that channels should be held responsible for what they are showing, and they should censor; while the other school of thought promotes self-censorship and says it is the parents’ responsibility about what their kids see or don’t see.
The matter can only be discussed and analysed, when the proper rules are set. In India, every single agency, media institution, the government and the people have a separate set of rules to define what adult content is, and what should be and should not be censored. Media is something, which touches every Indian in every way these days. With technological advances and resources available, the media industry is growing at a rapid pace in India, but along with the industry, the rules to govern that industry have not been properly defined, which is causing a problem.
There are different mediums with which Indians interact with every day, these include but are not limited to, the TV, newspapers and the Internet. Vulgarity, sex, sleaze, obscenity, ribaldry and soft pornography have made back-room entry in to the lives of many Indians, without them knowing about it in many cases. Sex is being used as a selling object. It is the added value to the product, which attracts many customers. It is the shiny red packaging you can say, to a chocolate which makes a kid buy it and eat it. Children have impressionable, fragile minds and once they see something, it is likely that they will retain it in their memory. What they see or read will be recalled back in to their mind and they will be influenced. Indian media selling statement is that, without sex it does not sell. People want sex, sleazy songs, and suggestive content to see or read, for entertainment purposes. That is probably right, since India is a huge country with a large population and mostly when it comes to movies, the target audience is the lower class/blue collar working people. For them, sex is what brings them to the cinema to see a film or racy pictures in a magazine, is what makes them buy it and read it in the first place. They are the sex starved Indian masses and the media exploits them.
The biggest and most popular medium is the “big screen” or the cinema. Bollywood film industry is a huge industry, with a lot of movies being made throughout the year and shown in India and exported out of India to people all over the world, who are a fan of Indian movies. Almost every other Indian movie has an “item number” as they like to call it – a sleazy song which usually has cheap lyrics, suggestive clothing and dance routines – which gives the “sex” or the “oomph” factor to the movie. This is even when the movie itself is a children’s movie or a movie which is not categorised in the Indian censor board’s “A” or “Adult” grade rating.
Indian media practitioners, especially film makers, pride on the fact that they have raunchiness included in their movies, in the form of these sexy item numbers. Two sexy item numbers making the waves these days are “Munni Badnaam Howi” and “Sheila ki Jawani”, where the latter even promotes it as “The most awaited sizzling, sexiest, seductive Item song of the year” in its song promo, on the video sharing website called Youtube. The movie’s producer Farah Khan also gave an interview in which she said that she was proud of the song and what the item number girl has done in it. This “Sheila Ki Jawani” has also broken all-time records set and also records set by “Munni Badnaam Howi.”
When it comes to television, India does not know what prime time and what late hours are. There is no separate channel for adult content. Everything is mixed in to the normal prime time channels. A famous series which has just started these on NDTV Imagine called “Kitani Mohabbat Hai: 2” features a lot of suggestive scenes, pelvic thrusts and love making scenes in all its glory (but with clothes on).
The Indian public has no clue what is being beamed daily in to the young minds on a daily basis. There is sleaze, soft pornography, adult content, nudity on all mediums easily accessible to the kids that should be censored. Kids are allowed access to all of this and yet, kids are not allowed to wear western clothing, which in some families is deemed inappropriate and too revealing, kids are geared away from sex education in schools and all other restrictions that are imposed on them, in the name of Indian culture and religious practices.
There would be an on-going battle between the two schools of thought, whether Indian Media should step up and be accountable for what they are showing to the masses, especially the children, or should people resort to self-censorship. India is a country which is trying to discover what it actually is. It has a duplicitous society, nothing like Europe where topics which are deemed taboo in the Indian culture, are discussed openly, especially with children. It is a country which is trying to modernise itself, but still sticks to its orthodox conservative beliefs. Where these topics are not allowed in the open, the Indian Media tries to push boundaries and reveal as much as they can about them to the public. Who knows what will happen in the future?