Saturday, February 27, 2010

Porn Politics

Wasn't it just the other day when a magazine called Debonair sold openly on the stands, with all those curvaceous, home-grown beauties posing for the centrefold? Debonair was a literotica magazine: it not only served you some of the most delectable pair of Indian tits but also some of the finest prose and verse published by any Indian magazine at the time.

I was too young when Debonair was at its peak, edited by some of the finest minds in the country, but I resolutely caught up with the past issues on the pavements of Daryaganj in Delhi and Parade in Kanpur. Of course you looked at the girls first, and once you were done with them, you proceeded to devour the remaining content. Sometime in the early 1990's, when I had just entered journalism, an enterprising young man from Allahabad came out with a similar magazine, Fantasy. It was a bit bolder than Debonair when it came to centrespeads, but it also had a lot of stuff worth reading. The success of Fantasy inspired the publication of about a dozen such magazines, but they were all crudely produced and had crude models striking crude poses.

I doubt if any of them exists today. It doesn't matter, for porn has gone online. But as far as my knowledge goes, Debonair still comes out. But buying it today is a waste of money. I bought one as recently as two years ago from a railway station in Kerala (I can't recall which, perhaps Shoranur), and discovered that Cosmopolitan is bolder.

The point is: these magazines existed till about a decade and a half ago. They did not eat into Indian culture. They did not erode the morals of a traditional Hindu family. Life just went on, just the way it goes on today. In fact, Atal Behari Vajpayee was an avid reader of Debonair, though he kept it under his pillow.

The point is: today, can you walk into a bookshop and find an Indian magazine that features nude Indian women? More importantly, does any publisher have the courage to bring out a magazine that features nude Indian women? The answer is a resounding 'no'. Which publisher would risk his office being stoned or set on fire by the so-called upholders of Indian culture?

The point is: what really went wrong in the past 15 years? As a teenager, I saw Debonair being sold freely on the stands, but as a man who is now almost 40, I would be horrified to find such a magazine being sold over the counter. Horrified, because the publisher would only be courting trouble and inviting violence. So what really went wrong?

It is just that we have gone back in time, thanks to a few hundred thousand men who decided that we have not imbibed enough culture from our mothers' milk and that we need to be fed with the powdered version of Indian culture so that it runs in our veins. It was the rise of the culture vultures that marked the decline of the Indian society. The villain is the BJP, led by L.K. Advani. Had he not set out on the rath yatra way back in 1990 to garner support for the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya, Debonair might have been carrying Indian nudes even today. But his Hindutva endeavour encouraged every jobless Tom, Dick and Harry to become a custodian of the Hindu culture.

The BJP and the various Hindutva forces should never forget that the BJP came to power at the Centre only because Atal Behari Vajpayee, a much-loved moderate leader and a reader of Debonair, was projected as their prime ministerial candidate. In the 2009 general elections, the public outright rejected the BJP's 'Advani for PM' campaign. Advani, at best, served as a vote-gatherer for Vajpayee. Who should know this better than me -- a silent reporter who covered the BJP from 1996 to 2000, recording its transition from the largest Opposition to being the ruling party.

It was Advani who made the BJP untouchable, and it was Vajpayee who had made the party touchable all over again, with regional parties like the TDP and the DMK supporting his government. But with the exit of Vajpayee, the poet-politician whose appeal cut across party lines but who is now too old and too unwell, the BJP has returned to being an untouchable. And it is likely to remain that way unless it stops talking about the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Really, which Indian or a Hindu today is bothered about the building of a Ram temple in a town as small and as remote as Ayodhya? As it is, the people of Ayodhya are not at all happy with the BJP, which I discovered during a visit to Ayodhya amid the 2004 elections.

The BJP, take it from me, is not going to come to power in the near future, Even the BJP knows that. But what is wrong with the Congress? Why has it lost its balls? Why is India's best known artist, M.F. Hussain, being forced to live in exile and now being granted citizenship by Qatar? Can't Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh stand up and say that Hussain belongs to India and that he should return? But they are scared. We are all scared. Today, we all live in an atmosphere of fear.

24 comments:

hardik mehta said...

"we have not imbibed enough culture from our mothers' milk and that we need to be fed with the powdered version of Indian culture so that it runs in our veins."

great stuff.!!

i remember baroda had one such place near the ST (state transport) bus stand where they sold "mermaid", "fantasy", "debonair".....teenagers could take home for a day or two and return for 1/4th of the cover price..

and then suddenly you would find the issue being circulated on the last bench of the class... :)

"yeh ST stand se laya na?"
and the smirks...:)

Anonymous said...

MF Hussain is most welcome to come back to India and this time he should paint a nude Allah.
I would like to watch ppls reactions!! and then he should be sent to Qatar for a short visit..

Debonair would have entertained men, but what about the models? Woud the men know for sure the woman they were watching on the page wasn't the girl who tied rakhi on his wrist every year??

BJP may be a party heavily laden with religion but these are some good steps they have taken..

Anonymous said...

You can get away by writing anything on hinduism..try writing something on the Islam ..and then you will realise ..selling chai on railway platforms is a better praspect.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous - I request you to give a photo of Allah to him so that he can paint. Can you give that?

No, the men watching those pages would be sure that those girls have not tied them rakhi.. those guys would not have let their 'sisters' go that way.

BJP has done nothing good except fooling unedcuated people and educated people who cant use their own brain.. they fooled people saying they will build Ram Temple.. were they even able to do a bit in those 5 years they were in power? I don't give a damn whether they build a temple or not.. even if they had build it, I wouldnt have visited it since there are lot of temples here which I visit very often. So Thank You very much BJP for the offer but we dont require a temple.
BJP has done nothing but divide people and also encouraged more and more religious fanatics in our country. For me they are nothing less than a taliban.

Anonymous said...

what is this fuss all about? With the advent of internet..you get everything online..why bother reading a magazine?

Anonymous said...

It has become a fashion for every Tom,Dick and Harry to take a swipe at Hinduism.Only in Hinduism, you can get away with criticizing it and live on to think about booze, boobs and butts. If you have the balls, try to criticize Islamic terrorism.

Soumya said...

During my teens, I had once come across an issue of Debonair at my grandparents' place - hidden by some uncle, no doubt!! Like you said, it also had read-worthy stuff. I also remember that the identity of the model as an air-hostess had been revealed! Not so long ago, even mags like India Today had featured a South Indian painter who had a fascination for nude self-portraits. Today, with the wider reach of such articles, I wonder if these women could move about freely.
I'm not sure if one should blame only the politicians for taking the clock backwards.When one caters to wide sections of society, a responsible person has to consider a lot of things - not, only freedom of expression.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about Debonair much to comment here on that. I do believe that painting Hindu Goddesses in a crude way is an insult to the sentiments of all the Hindus with their heart in the right place. If M F is really secular, he should paint his God in a crude way. I am sure he doesn't need any picture of it. His imagination will do just fine as it did with Hindu Gods / Goddesses.

Anonymous said...

Whether it's Hinduism or Islam or Christianity, the followers need to posses a rational mind and must be willing to get scrutinized and debated on the complexities of their religion without getting fanatically agitated.

If the only defense against one's religion is to kill and usurp places of worship or to draw degrading paintings of other people’s gods and goddesses, then, I think there's something grossly wrong. Why should one ever think of siding with god to help promote His religion?

Couldn't god defend himself? Does He need a human hand to intervene and protect His divinity? I doubt it. It is men who haven't fully understood god's nature that set out on incontrollable rampages. Unfortunately, it’s not just happening in India, but across countries, across continents. Where religion has blurred the eyes of reasoning.

Take for incident, the innocent passengers in the planes that crashed into Trade Towers or the unsuspecting guests at Taj in Mumbai or the naive employees working in Afghanistan who were kidnapped and killed because ransom was not delivered - all in the name of god. What have they done to deserve death?

Which religion compels you to kill the innocent? None that I am aware of. All these are machinations of the individuals whose personal gains are at stake. Unfortunately, the uneducated and poverty-stricken are the ones who take the bait. By the time they gather their wits to analyze the magnitude of destruction by them, it’s too late.

You have doubts? Ask Kasab. He has a story to tell.

-Raj Kumar

Anonymous said...

Why there is so much hue and cry over M F Hussein? He has accepeted a citizenship of another country. Just let him be.I do not see him any different from other NRIS who opt for US citizenship and come back to India to raise their chidren. Atleast they come back. Hussein had to face brickbats coz of his paintings that portrayed Hindu gods in an offensive manner. He has accepted citizenship of an islamic country. That goes to show that pepole from Islam are united whilst we are so divied. Goes back to history when Hindu kings fought amounst themselves that led to mughal and other invasions. Let Hussein paint a picture of allah and then see what happens.

Anonymous said...

Biswa
You have also joined the happening crowd by criticizing some Hindu activists targeting Husain.
Why no mention of attacks by Islamists over some reported remarks of Taslima Nasrin over the prophet recently.
What about fatwa on Danish cartoonist, Salman Rushdie ? What about beheading of Sikhs by fanatic muslims Talibans. 2 days back in Kanpur, muslims were taking out a procession where their youth manhandled some police sipahis and guess what - they got away with it. The policemen were removed from there and sent somewhere else - for doing their duty.
Why dont you write about genocide in Kashmir ?
Lalit

Anonymous said...

Hindu mothers have fed their babies too much tolerance Bishu! Speaking ill of pro Hindu leaders like L.K. Advani and Modi has become a fashion statement to a vast majority in the media. Please don't join that clan! For Allah's sake, Jesus's sake and Ram's sake! Jai Hind.

Anonymous said...

I think, today's youth has lost the urge to read..who cares whether they can buy debonair or any other magazine?
You get everything on the Internnet.

www.fsiblog.com
www.debonairblog.com

The quality of the content is debatable..but challega.

Anonymous said...

Sir
Hindus have been trampelled and killed since time immemorial. Islam "the religion of peace" came with the invaders like Ghori & Ghazni. The choice for Hindus was to face beheading by sword or to embrace Islam. The courageous died. Others converted to islam. I think at leat 80% of India's Muslims are those whose forefathers were Hindus. But all this is forgotten after conversion as islam leaves no place for dissent. In last century both Hindus and others have bred like rabbits so we became 110 crore in numbers. The hope i have for Hindus is because it is very difficult to wipe out such a huge number, even if they are meek and self flaggelating. Hindus are the first to denounce themselves and are never agressive thats why they have always been at receiving end in history. For that we should thank BJP to atleast put some spine in Hindu movement (not ashamed to be a Hindu) even if BJP's leaders are as bad as other leaders.

Anonymous said...

WOW! you have done it again!! One blog post and your blog ratings are up. You definitely needed some publicity and what better way to have some "drawing room journalist" talks. I am sure you must be smiling now!

janani sampath said...

while I agree with ur views on Debonair and BJP, I don't thinK we shud make a hue and cry over MF Hussain.
I wanna know if he wud have got asylum in Qatar, had he offended Islam? And, it ws the only day that Iran banned a magazine because it carried something positive about Bahai, a banned religion in the country.
In our country, secularism is a farce.. no one accepts another religion. Coming to think of it, it is better to be like Iran; at least there, secularism is not a eye wash.
So, I am for someone who takes that open stand for a religion, rather than the one who plays religious cards in the name of secularism... which is the case in our country...
Above all, no party that puts religion above development and progress deserves to be in power...

TheMemoryMaker said...

As a kid, I read a story about Swami Vivekananda.

He was invited by a muslim king and was questioned about idol worship. He was asked, why do you worship a painting ? And several question on those lines. Swami Vivekanand, listened patiently and asked the king to get a portrait of his dead father. The king was confused but he asked the portrait to be brought in. Swamiji, calmly asked the king to spit on the portrait. The king was furious. He said how can I spit on the picture of my father ? That, said Swamiji, is the whole point.

And that my friend is the whole point here. I am not a writer, not an intellectual at all, but this story makes sense to me. I worship some one as the mother Goddess, its my faith my beleif. It hurts my sentiments to know that she is being exploited by an artistic mind.

We can go miles on how other religions are out of reach and we can take liberty on Hinduism. And we can yell and throw verbal abuses. But that is not taking us anywhere. There is a case where the home minister apologises for an editorial supposedly by Tasleema Nasreen. The Same lady who was turned out of a "non-religious" party ruled state. But that too is not an issue there.
The issue is exactly how we would protest if some one paints my own mother in the nude, and calls in artistic liberty. It is a very simple sentiment.

janani sampath said...

@ 3:29 PM, Anonymous: well, we are not doing some drawing room discussions... if u think so, why do you even wanna leave a comment u cud have as well saved a vote, rite?.... in fact, it is you who is dying for publicity..
here I go, I noticed ur silly comment.. and don keep coming back to this page for seeing more responses to ur juvenile talks.. u will send the statistics soaring...

PS: I commented so that you don't get more desperate and ruin our fine discussions ...jst relax...

Anonymous said...

Rolf after reading this post of yours.
Your logical thinking is going to prove that Secret of Atal (indirecty Vachpayee) is debonair..

Lol...
This is when I am realizing your brain is composed of.

Thank God you remained as a writer. If you were a engineer or a doctor there would have been some serious danger for lives of people

Anonymous said...

@Ms Sampath: Instead of poking your nose into others' views and opinions, first please learn to mind your business. This is Mr Ghosh's blog, NOT YOURS, and if he wants to agree or disagree to any of the comments, please let him do so. Don't try to be his spokesperson. And do mind your language while commenting. This has been a decent blog for the last 5 years, and please let it be. Don't spoil its flavour with your irrelevant rant.

Mr Ghosh, do you really need such sycophants on your blog?

janani sampath said...

@ Anonymnous at 12:03 PM: Well, I didn't want to respond to this, but yes, no one needs to take any unkind remarks from some person who doesn't have the maturity to leave their name.. Before calling me a sycophant, you might as well get it straight that u started tht argument... And had u expressed your views on gtalk to Mr Ghosh and then I had left those comments, you wud have been right in asking me to mind my business..
Instead, you get personal and nasty on his blog which is a platform for discussion..Sad that you didn't even have a view to express and went about slamming somebody else's...
Don't give me ultimatums, for they won't work...and yes I am the spokesperson for my views.. ur comment was about the discussion and i was a part of it.. .and it is very well within my business to respond to your jibe

Anonymous said...

MF Husaain, Shahi Imam, and a lot more of their clan can get away with painting/saying/writing about Hinduism,and its beliefs. They can afford to do it, because they know, that they have the blessings of the secular forces in India, of blog writers who to be in the news/or in the "CIRCUIT" do not mind bashing their own country, their own religion.They do so, because it is the in thing, something to speak about in the so called Hi-Fi society.

Hinduism is not a religion, Mr. Ghosh, it is a way of life, it teaches us to be tolerant, thank it for being tolerant to views which you and people of your like hold about it. the day the tolerance level goes down, you and your likes would have a hard time, finding a place to hide.remember Qatar is a Muslim country!!!!

Now what?????????? said...

Why should we protest against this painting ?
Representing India as a woman being raped, is nothing but terrible denigration. For an Indian, 'Bharat Mata' (Mother India) is a Goddess and not some figurative concept and showcasing her in this manner is highly outrageous and a completely unacceptable form of denigration.

It would be appropriate to ask MF Husain if he would have dared to make a similar painting had there been an attack on the UK, the UAE or Qatar and named it the 'Rape of UK, UAE or Qatar' ? (Husain has recently become a citizen of Qatar)

What is MF Husain's sick fascination for having sex with animals ? Why does he repeatedly superimpose his dirty minded eroticism on Deities ?

Why has he split the canvas in half ? Does he want to suggest that India will spilt ? Why this divisive implication that India will crumble under attack ?

Why has he painted the blood that has been spilt in the colour green ? And also the two bulls with green faces. The offenders of the cowardly terrorist attacks that India is facing, are the people who are symbolized by the colour green, and not the other way around. Does he expect the Islamisation of India ?

India has been wounded by innumerable terrorist attacks. Instead of expressing her pain, MF Husain has humiliated her and has added insult to her injury by showing her being raped and that too with the perverted suggestion of an animal straddling her and of a man pulling at her blouse and staring at her breast.

If MF Husain is truly an artist (as claimed by the artist community) and that all his thoughts about being outraged by terrorism were genuine, then why does he not paint others being nude and having sex with animals ? But as we have observed he depicts only India and Hindus in this manner.

Thus, for these reasons this painting is unacceptable to an Indian and it hurts and rapes our sensibilities.

Some questions we need to ask ourselves !
Why do intellectuals and the art world continue to applaud MF Husain's perverted endeavours and still paint him as an 'artist' ?

Has the collective mind of our social elite plummeted so deep, that on the one hand it puts men like MF Husain on a pedestal and on the other, summarily rubbishes a call for purity and feelings of national pride ?

That we are actually debating this issue and not taking immediate action against MF Husain is the very reason why India has been attacked for centuries and has instead only been hospitable to our invaders. Do we still want to continue to function in a manner that does not even recognize an assault on our collective consciousness in the form of this obnoxious painting ?

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