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The body is a wonderland

Multimedia project Agents of Ishq is on a mission to open up the conversation on love, sex and desire in all their manifestations.

Agents of Ishq, Agents of Ishq website, Agents of Ishq podcast, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh, Parodevi Pictures, Parodevi Films, Paromita Vohra, sex, sex education Stills from the video titled Main Aur Meri Body

There is no hesitation in his voice as Satya launches into the story of his love for this one special girl, who likes him too. She won’t let him touch her though, at least not yet, and he completely understands. He is willing to wait until she is comfortable and she likes that he is respectful of her boundaries. Still, he admits how enticing he finds her every move.

Like when he pulls her hair playfully and disarranges it and she then opens it and ties it up again. His voice goes soft as he describes the fragrance of her hair, and it does so again when he talks about how important a first kiss is, even though he hasn’t experienced it yet. “Maybe we’ll understand each other better after that,” he says, his voice trailing off.

Satya’s story can be heard on the Agents of Ishq podcast Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh. A multimedia project by Mumbai-based Parodevi Pictures, Agents of Ishq sees itself as giving sex a good name, which is quite a task in a country which is still debating whether sex education should be replaced by value education. “At Agents of Ishq, we’re not coy about sex, but we’re certainly not out to shock people,” says filmmaker Paromita Vohra, who runs Parodevi Films.

Agents of Ishq, Agents of Ishq website, Agents of Ishq podcast, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh, Parodevi Pictures, Parodevi Films, Paromita Vohra, sex, sex education

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She says, “We just want to make it normal to talk about sex, because sex is such a normal part of our lives. Yet the tendency is to hush it up or pretend that it doesn’t exist. If we talk about sex at all, we do it in an extremely factual and scientific way. We talk about it purely in terms of reproduction or when we discuss sexual abuse and rape. But sexual desire is so much a part of us, and we need to be able to talk about that too”.

It is not surprising then to find on the Agents of Ishq website, such explorations of desire as the lovingly illustrated fantasy If Rani Mukerji Were Your Girlfriend, and a moving essay in which the writer talks about her love for and fascination with the male body, accompanied by watercolour paintings of male nudes. Desire, which has long been described in negative terms like being “sinful”, “forbidden” or “unnatural”, is reclaimed in these essays, videos and podcasts and given its rightful place at the intersection of love and sex.

This is best illustrated in Phoolz for Love, a six-and-a-half minute documentary shot during last year’s LGBTI-inclusive Rose Day celebrations at Ramnarain Ruia College in Mumbai. The video is remarkable not just for the complete lack of cynicism displayed by the students, but also for their acceptance of love in all its manifestations, whether it is lust, confusion, jealousy or heartbreak. As one student in the video says, “Why just get into love and avoid all the other things that are a part of love?”

Normalising desire is just one part of Agents of Ishq’s plan. The other part is educating people about sex. The delightful Main Aur Meri Body, a sex-education video that is ostensibly aimed at children, works just as well for adults, especially as it not only clarifies the mechanics of sex, but also promotes the acceptance of the human body as a wonderful thing. Vohra says, “We didn’t want to just talk about how babies are made. That is not the sole purpose of sex. Sex is also a way for us to express love and to celebrate our bodies”. The video, therefore, goes on from talking about the male and female reproductive systems to discussing pheromones, which trigger attraction and pleasure, and chromosomes, which make each of us unique.

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The question of sexual etiquette is also important to the work that Agents of Ishq does and it is promoting a conversation on the subject through email, Facebook and Twitter. “Many of the questions that come up during discussions on sex and dating are about what is or isn’t acceptable behaviour,” says Vohra, “Sexual etiquette is not limited to the question of consent, but we don’t have a vocabulary to fall back on when discussing these things”.

First published on: 22-02-2016 at 00:11 IST
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