Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Inchoate Images of Changing India III

Inchoate Images of Changing India
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Ever since the liberalisation of India’s economy in the early nineties there have been few things that have been happening simultaneously in the country. The obvious is the shift towards the capitalist model of economy and the spectacular rise in the rate of the Gross Domestic Product. The second glaring feature is the rise of Hindu religious nationalism spearheaded by Bhartiya Janata Party, a right wing Hindu political outfit. The third trait is the explosion of media particularly electronic that’s having a huge bearing on the social and the cultural scene of the Indian society.

The opening of India’s economy and its merging with the global economic forces has been widely discussed and debated. Equally lot of energy is devoted analysing the rise of the right wing nationalist forces in tandem with the economic liberalisation. Similarly a lot has been talked about the media explosion particularly from the point of news and views and press freedom.

However, the impact of media boom on the society particularly from the angle of sexual libration is hardly being debated even though the entire nation is experiencing it in its day-to-day life. The general tendency is to brush up such topic below the carpet and shy away from brining it to the arena of public debate. This sounds strange for a country where opinion on any issue under the sun is on discount.

Unlike the West where the sexual libration has evolved over a long period of time, it silently tiptoed into the Indian living rooms from the skies. This happened exactly in tandem of the economic reforms in the early nineties when the satellite TV for the first time made its presence felt in the country.

Since then the satellite channels have flooded the small screen and India has been witnessing cataclysmic changes on its social and cultural scene.

There is little doubt that the barrage of electronic media has ushered in sexual liberation and with it the lid over the baser instincts of an average Indian has been lifted up.

As one surfs the channels there seems to be rat race on to outdo the other in name of glorifying sex. Damsels wearing mini skirts, hot pants and exposing the barren flesh on the navel, making pelvic thrusts, shaking their bosom, giving a peek a boo of their cleavages, forms a staple diet on the television screens.

Unconsciously, such display has drastically reduced the journey from the adolescence to the adulthood in India. Now a young boy need not have to lock in the bathrooms to flip through the adult magazines but just has to tune into any of the TV channels for sexual fantasy. Whether it’s song, soaps or comedy, every where its the same tale of unadulterated sex that glares ones face.

The big question is where this gamut of sex and seduction that’s going on the TV screens are heading for? The moral preachers would like to call this overdose of voyeurism as sleaze and would like to put a halt on them in the general interest of the society.

But does anyone care for the moral popes in India? The argument behind such hedonistic pursuit is pure economics of demand and supply. Since the audience like to watch such delicacies, its plated before them with all the prop and smoke, goes the argument.

There is little doubt that no one can put breaks on such form of entertainment given the speed in which the electronic media is moving in the country.

So if that’s the reality, what one can do about it? Well one can search for positives in this hedonistic madness and talk about how a complex subject like sexuality is understood by the Indian society.

There is little doubt that television has come to the forefront of the sexual liberation in India. Not only sex is being openly being debated on the small screen but various programmes related to the idea of romance and dating are unravelling its mysteries. Various soaps dwell upon an entire gamut of interpersonal relations that range from teenage to extra marital relationship. Some soaps advocate inter-caste, inter- religion relationship, cutting across cultural and linguistic lines. The screenplay and the dialogues of some the soaps are so bold and explicit, that at best it can be described as a clarion call for sexual revolution.

There are many positives that can be picked up from such developments. TV watching has made the current crop of youth much more confidant than to the genre that had radio and newspaper as the only form of entertainment. Such youth in their conduct are much more positive then their older generation.

Thanks to the various programmes, the body language and the dress sense of the average youth has changed a lot. The traditional dhoti and saris that doted the civic space are slowly waning out and replaced by smart trendy western dresses on the streets.

With the multiple channels on one’s remote control, the regulated era of entertainment has come to an end. If there is some sort of sexual liberation that’s being witnessed on streets it’s emanating through the TV screens, something that’s been unheard of before. This is some way is contributing to the secular values and helping in reducing the gap of regimentation in the Indian society.

However, TV sets are also acting as catalyst for solidifying religion-based nationalism as well. If one has to watch how religion dominates the Indian society one just had to take round of the Indian cities when the two mega soaps Ramayan and Mahabharat, ran on the small screen. The entire India use to come to a griding halt when these two serials based on Hindu epics was on air.

What does this point to: Is India breaking the shackles of the highly religious dominated society through sexual liberation or it’s clinging to its religious moorings?

There are no clear-cut answers for such hypothesis. The overwhelming response to the TV sets points towards the fact that changes are taking place in several directions. It’s contributing cementing the tradition of the Indian society at the same time it’s also inciting to break its stronghold.

If the TV sets have set up a clash between modernisation and tradition it has also has come in the forefront for the glorification of money something that goes against the grain of Indian society. The soap like “Kaun Banega Karorpati”-a game show that promised the winner 1000,000 rupees glorified the drive to poses money to its hit. As the protagonist played the game on the small screen every one was glued to the TV sets, counting the money in their living rooms drawing satisfaction possessing that much of wealth. Once again India from north to south, east to west was on a standstill.

It points to the fact that India is shedding its spiritual cloak, coming out of the slough of its Karma and Dharma mould and chasing the mundane world that’s marked by an era of globalisation.

The impact of television has been felt all round the India society. There is so much to pick and choose surfing the TV channels. There is news, views, entertainment, sports, health, wealth fashion and what not. Television has brought the entire country closer to each other in such a way that’s been never experienced before. The entire country together shares its joy and sorrow, trial and turbulence, shining or cheated watching the small screen.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a television journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at

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