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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Out of the closet

Open references to sexual matters and preferences have increased on Indian television.

February 6, 2014 2:34:04 am
 Bollywood superstar made his debut on Koffee with Karan in its first episode of the latest season. Bollywood superstar made his debut on Koffee with Karan in its first episode of the latest season.

So there is this chat show, Sherbet with Salman, in the middle of the Star Guild Awards before the film frat, when the entire family makes an evening of it before the TV at home. Salman Khan’s guest is, guess who? Why, Karan Johar. Remember, the Bollywood superstar made his debut on Koffee with Karan in its first episode of the latest season.

Now, the exchange goes something like this (with a few hits and misses):

Salman Khan (aggressive): Why have you not got married till now?

Karan Johar (unperturbed): I am also a virgin. (A sly reference to the actor’s claim on Koffee with Karan).

Khan asks another leading question; Johar parries, naughty-naughty: “I will tell you backstage.” He giggles and everyone in the audience roars with laughter, enjoying the sexual pun intended. Revital Salman Khan (he advertises the product) thrusts outs his bulging body-built frame:

“Why are you breathless looking at me? I am happy but…” he trails off suggestively. Then it’s the rapid fire round: Do you like interviewing girls or boys? he demands and Johar blithely replies, “As a host I swing both ways.” The audience cracks up and we all think Johar is a jolly good fella for being so witty and brazen.

Who said Indian television has a “U” rating, that it’s a family pastime with maybe three generations of potatoes perched companionably together on the same couch, watching their favourite TV show? Would you sit by your grandmother listening to Khan and Johar?

On Koffee with Karan (Star World), five minutes do not pass without a reference to sex, to parts of the anatomy involved in acts of sex or to all kinds of sex. It’s not Johar’s fault entirely. As he declared last Sunday with guests Sonakshi Sinha and Shahid Kapoor, he tries “so hard” for the show not to be about sex — and fails. Kapoor was outrageous, revelling in risqué remarks throughout, while Sonakshi tittered — whether in delight or embarrassment, it was never quite clear.

The open references to sexual matters, sexual preferences, to relations with one’s partner — irrespective of marital status or gender — seem to have increased. On Chivas Studio Gentleman’s Code (Star World), men and women’s attitudes to procreation or recreational sex has been discussed at some length.

Ever since the Supreme Court overturned a Delhi High Court ruling that decriminalised homosexuality and reiterated that opinion last week, new channels have been frankly discussing the issue. Writer Vikram Seth on NDTV 24×7 (The Buck Stops Here) was outspoken about his “criminal” status under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

All of this is very refreshing and welcome. Is television out of the closet and the bedroom in India? Well, advertising certainly is. Like the two girls in the Fastrack commercial (seen more on the internet) who emerge together from a closet after doing god knows what not. There are explicit ads for condoms: seen the one for chocolate condoms, or deodorants and Old Spice with a young woman salivating over an ageing Milind Soman’s bare chest?
English language channels have offered viewers plenty of titillation for many years. Sex is central to popular shows such as Two and A Half Men, New Girl, Mom and Betrayal, to name a few, and the current Star World prime-time Boston Legal where the V word (referring to a particular part of the female anatomy) made a guest appearance this week — delicately censored out of course — and where office hanky-panky is habitual. Also, remember Mad Men?
Hindi entertainment channels, meanwhile, still behave like, well, virgins. We’ve had a few bedroom scenes in shows like Bade Achhe Lagte Hain (Sony), even a semi-passionate kiss or two on the mouth but as in our films, TV soaps allow lead couples to implode with sexual tension and smouldering eyes, to wear suggestive clothing (Rang Rasiya, Colors), maybe even utter “I luuuv you”, but that’s it.  Although married couples obviously do it, you’d never know it watching your favorite soaps. Comedy shows like Comedy Nights with Kapil (Colors) can be a wee bit naughty, but it never goes all the way.
Wonder if we should be more explicit about sex, sexual relationships and sexual politics given the levels of sexual repression in our society.

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