Censorship with remote control
For all of us growing up in the 1990s, and perhaps to the surprise of today’s online streaming generation, every family used to have one television set. Watching TV together, as a family, was one of the things we used to look forward to every day.
And this is where the ‘fun’ began. As it happens, my father, the head of the house, would also be the prized holder of the remote. And as soon as a ‘controversial’ scene came on TV.. voila, we are suddenly watching something else! One day my dad was busy with some work. My mother, my siblings and I were watching the popular Hindi movie ‘Satyam Shivam Sundram’ on TV. The movie was apparently ‘notorious’ among the grown-ups for its ‘hot’ scenes at the time, but we were just kids and had no knowledge of what was to come.
As soon as the love-making scene appeared on the screen, the remote control man – my dad – could not change the channel. However, he was all ears (and eyes) and found this it to be the perfect moment for scolding us. ‘You kids have the least interest in your studies. All you do is sit and watch TV,’ he shouted! The next moment, we saw the news anchor started reading news on the TV! Perfect way to divert our attention! We were a little embarrassed too once we understood what dad was trying to do!
How to get pregnant
Bollywood also ended up being our only source of ‘sex education’. And what a twisted one it was! Until up to my late teens, I was sure that one could get pregnant with a kiss and an erotic touch. For that’s how all Bollywood heroines would get the ‘good news’ after nine months. One kiss behind the flowers, one erotic touch on the neck (even as the lights were switched off) and fast forward to ‘Main tumhare bachhe ki maa banne wali hun!’. Nine months on, they had a babbling baby in their arms!
From wonder to wonder woman
Not only sex, our botchy initiation into the concept of menstruation was also done on TV. I still remember an old television advertisement of a sanitary napkin from the 90s. A very embarrassed girl said to us, the audience, ‘Aapse kuch kehna hai, kaise kahun?’ My young mind did not understand what the women was hesitant about until I had my own periods.
Fast forward to a few years, modern advertisements about sanitary napkins showed women transforming into super women the moment they used a certain brand of pads. They are happy, energetic and even jumping around in their periods wearing almost always white pants!
Both the depictions bordered on the extreme. I wish there were an advertisement that would teach young girls about menstruation and advise on something as simple as how to use a napkin. That would be far more useful for them than the incredible promises around women’s lives being transformed after the use of latest ultra-thin, super-absorbent, dry-weave, perfumed ninth wonder of the world!
Consent - A concept too far
‘Har ladki ki na main bhi haan hoti hai.’ That’s one lesson on sexuality that all Bollywood storylines seem to have mastered. In every typical romantic Bollywood movie, the girl first forbids the boy and says no to his advances. However, he sings his heart out to her and she finally succumbs to his ‘love.’ Even the popular song ‘Tu lakh chupa, tha mujko pata tha, teri na main bhi thi haan.’
If the girl does not surrender to his ‘love’, our Bollywood hero would forcefully kiss the girl and she would swoon with pride on this ‘manly act’ and she will say yes to him thereafter. As I grew up, I was mortified. In the absence of any sexuality education, a whole generation of Indians were growing up with the wrong notions of romance from the one place that talks about love – Bollywood. Even today we regularly hear and even groove on songs such as ‘Ab karoonga tere saath gandi baat’ without giving it a second thought!
Good girl, bad girl
Bollywood also taught me a lesson – how to identify a ‘bad girl’. Short hair - often cut in a stylish way, smart clothes (read short skirts) and a cigarette in the hand and one that’s happy to talk to boys. That’s it. There was your Bollywood chaloo girl immortalised by Helen and Bindu in the yesteryears.
A ‘good girl’ would, of course, be just the opposite – shy, demure, unstylish, smoking is out of the question and yes long hair! I am today a ‘good girl’, thanks to my lessons from Bollywood.
This article was first published on October 3, 2017.
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