From my TOI blog : Freeze Frame
It was a sultry Sunday evening in Calcutta, sometime in the late-eighties. I had settled down on my favourite cushion, by the tall window, in our hall. The hall housed our new colour television set, which had recently replaced the old, sturdy black & white Bharat TV that once held pride of place.
That particular Sunday was abound with possibilities and I could hardly wait for evening to descend. The television listings that I spent time on every morning had a pleasant surprise in store – Doordarshan was going to telecast Julie that evening. Yes, Julie. Remember the radio playing “Dil kya karein jab kisiko kisi se pyaar ho jaye” on Vividh Bharti that every teenager hummed when he set his sights on a pretty lass? I was old enough to know that Julie had caused quite a stir in its days for its bold scenes, and also like many things “adult” was out of bounds for me. Yet I was ready to try my luck. After all, wasn’t everything that was out of bounds a legitimate reason to try push one’s luck? There was a subtle excitement in the hope that someday I would surely be successful. And may be today was going to be that day.
My favourite cousin, a few years older in age and considerably older in experience was on her summer break, and it didn’t take long for us to realize that we perhaps stood a better chance if we teamed up together to come up with a plan that allowed us to hoodwink the elders and watch Julie on the sly. The last resort was bribing our movie-loving grandmother to be our partner in crime. Today, I blame those treacherous teen years entirely for such foolhardiness.
Our reverie was, however, rather short lived. My father, who on other Sundays, kept himself busy with his books in the Baithak-khana, had got wind of our plotting. So even before the screen could come alive with the title track, he walked into the room and switched off the television. As we stared at him doe-eyed in our ‘innocence’, he followed it up with a sermon on how such “Awposanskriti” was eroding our values, principles and morals. The other elders who had gathered in that sombre hall by then agreed with Baba – some wholeheartedly, while some significant others, including my grandmother, perhaps, because they had no other option but to agree.
This was not the first time that I had faced his ire, nor would it be the last, but it was definitely the last time for aspiring to watch “adult” movies on the sly, till I had become a responsible adult myself. And when my grudge had made way for a deeper understanding, I realized that all he had wanted to achieve that evening was to instill within me a sense of propriety and appropriateness, till a point in time that I was able to distinguish between black and white, fantasy and reality, family entertainment and entertainment for certain members of the family.
Decades later, as a responsible parent of an impressionable eleven year old, I often feel like an aberration among my generation for having very strict TV viewing rules, curtain bans on movies, channels and social media and for harbouring the belief that the cub needs her mother’s protection from the big, bad world. Preserving her innocence over overt-exposure is high priority. And every day I find that I am fighting a losing battle.
Why? Because if the late eighties had one Julie trying to invade our homes, the 21st century has a battalion of Munnis, Jalebi Bais, Chikni Chamelis, Sexy Sheilas, Rakhis and their accompanying serials kissers popping out of the window. Even the once innocent cartoon channels leave little to the imagination with their poor Hindi translations and colloquialisms.
Who do we have to blame for this? The Censor Board? The film producers? The directors? The actors? The screenplay writer? Advertising agencies? Or the viewing public that thirsts for such trollop? Is it not true that over the past few decades we have appear to have loosened our moral purse strings considerably and today allow almost everything in, in the name of entertainment, a realistic slice of life or plain reportage? Haven’t we lowered our walls and raised our threshold to accept only trash in the name of entertainment? And that too across the print, electronic and outdoor media.
Few parents today bat an eyelid over inappropriate content. In fact, I frequently come across ‘responsible parents’ who have taken their 5-8-year old children to watch movies like LSD, Dirty Picture, Delhi Belly, Vicky Donor and Hate Story, in the name of entertainment. All of us sit through parties, musical evenings and so called cultural evenings when little girls and boys ape the suggestive gyrations of “Sheila ki jawani”, “Munni badnam hui” and “Jalebi Bai” while the world clap and cheer them for their finesse. And this is the dirty, rotten reality of our times, the real dirty picture.
No, I am not a prude, and I don’t consider myself a conscience keeper for society at large. I just carry a wishlist in my pocket. I call it the “list of impossible wishes”. Here is how it goes : I would definitely like better and cleaner movies for my daughter, I would like less nudity, sexual innuendoes and vulgarity thrust upon us in the name of entertainment, I would like better censorship, better ratings for movies that don’t have enough to be called an “adult” movie but is nonetheless inappropraite for children, I would like better sense to prevail over parents and the “the list of impossible longings” gets loger. And since my wishlist is fraught with impossibilities, I have shelved it a long time ago. Like many of you, I squirm, rant, complain and impose stricter rule upon the child. I know that there is no instant solution to the mess. Yet I will continue to believe that everything has an appropriate time, and that over exposure to adult movies, images and innundeos are perhaps a little premature for children, even though I know, I am fighting a lonely losing battle.
Image courtesy : indiatoday.intoday.in; rediff.com; en.wikipedia.org; download-a.com; bollywood.celebden.com; hindustanlink.com ; dailynewposts.blogspot.com; hindi.moviechaska.com; desi-radio.com