Fifty shades of humbug: Why desis pretend they don’t consume porn


The Raj Kundra arrest is important. But it is not just about peddling pornography and minting millions. It is more about us, and this ‘holier than thou’ nonsense. If we were so damn prudish, could Raj Kundra have created a business empire selling smut? Any business that succeeds needs customers — whether the person is selling vada pav or adult videos.

Raj Kundra found a gigantic customer base that was willing to subscribe to his adult videos content. According to the police who arrested him in Mumbai, they have sufficient evidence to nail him as the ‘mastermind’ behind the racket. Sure. They busted one player who happened to be on their radar for a while, especially after a few starlets filed cases against Kundra for cheating and misusing their videos.

My point is a little different — Kundra has been nabbed but there are hundreds of Kundras out there. Will this one high-profile arrest successfully deter other peddlers of porn? Kundra has challenged his arrest, arguing that what he shoots and markets across the world does not fall into the hard-core porn category — which is a punishable offence. “Who decides what’s lascivious?” his advocate cheekily asked the court. Now his team wants him out on bail saying he’s not a “terrorist”! Kundra’s wife, actress Shilpa Shetty, insisted, “It’s just erotica.” Kundra’s petition in the high court says the alleged content does not depict direct explicit sexual acts or sexual intercourse.

At its worst, it can be described as ‘prurient’. There are two issues here: Exploiting young men and women from under-privileged backgrounds who have fallen on hard times surely is a pretty lowdown thing to do. But with the existing law silent on the definition of pornography, who decides what is hard core and what is titillating? One man’s erotica can be another man’s porn.

Raj Kundra’s arrest is not going to change a thing! That he was planning to sell 119 such videos for $1.2 million tells us about the growing appetite of Indians for sexually stimulating material.

Anyone with a smartphone can access millions of international videos by just pressing a few keys. Even a ban on some porn websites in 2019 couldn’t shut them down as people simply discovered VPNs. For a lot of regular consumers, it is no different from ordering a multi-course meal on an app from the nearest takeaway. Let’s call it the equivalent of dhaba-Chinese chowmein — addictive and irresistible. Let’s just say desis prefer ‘porn flakes’.

Ever since OTT platforms invaded bedrooms in India with their ‘bold’ content, a lot changed in our perception of what is okay to view and what continues to remain behind a diaphanous veil of ‘propriety’. Who has not watched hit shows on Netflix and Amazon that went straight under the sheets and showed known actors performing simulated sex acts without any hesitation or self-consciousness? Nothing was considered ‘too much’ — group sex, foursomes, same-sex orgies.

At the time, these breakthrough shows were lauded for ignoring hypocritical taboos that inhibited us from going the distance sexually on entertainment platforms. A couple of decades ago, romance in Bollywood was projected preposterously! Think close-ups of flowers kissing, bushes shaking violently, and bees sucking nectar! Shabby substitutes for the real thing. Next step? Fire hoses gushing and petrol tanks getting filled — suggestive phallic imagery in overdrive. But Bollywood didn’t and still doesn’t have the guts to go all the way. ‘We respect traditional Indian sentiments and family values,’ filmmakers piously claim.

This is hogwash, of course. Ironically, even in homes where members clandestinely watch porn on smartphones, sex remains a banned topic. Nobody talks about it. But everybody consumes it in some form or the other. The ‘Kama Sutra’ is seen as India’s dirty secret. We snigger, blush and cover our faces when someone mentions sex, or cuts a stupid joke about genitals. And yet, most of our street abuses involve sex acts performed on female family members!

Popular culture explores sexuality in several highly creative ways. There are folk songs, wedding rituals, and temple sculptures. There is no such thing as ‘gupt gyan’ no matter how hard we pretend to be prudish. If our education system could be rejigged to include sex education, there would be much less misinformation and far more acceptance about a topic that has been pushed under the carpet for years and years — come on, we can handle it!

The Kundra case raises many issues. It is not just about one man’s porn industry getting busted. It also makes us review our own attitude towards sex and related topics. It’s a case worth tracking just to see how many diverse narratives it throws up for public discourse — considering how squeamish we are about intercourse!

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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