How even the most powerful medium of mass communication, education and expression can be vitiated and abused to create an adverse effect, is best typified by the cinema. Indian cinema today has to exemplify a mixture of credits, depravity, vulgarity and obscenity of the worst kind. Sex and violence are the hallmarks of the run-of-the-mill , Indian cinema, branded as ‘Formula Films’.
Although there has been an ever-increasing ‘permissiveness’ on the silver screen the world over, Indian cinema has particularly come to be identified with crude vulgarity and nauseating depiction exploitation of sex meant for titillating the audiences. The formula also succeeds in leaving a bad taste in the mouth of the more mature viewers. The course handling of sex in Indian films has reached a disgusting level but a spate of such films continues ad infinitude.
The tinsel world of Indian cinema is the creation of an industry and its own right which functions on a ‘profit motive’. The endeavor of each person making a film is not merely to ensure good run and get returns for the money spent on it, but to make it a ‘hit’ with the people and earn maximum profit to fill his coffers.
To ensure Box office success, the filmmakers churn out a virtual hotch potch of melodrama, dance, cabarets, songs, scenes of rape, violence, fight, romance between hero and heroine and so on. They aim at literally pulling the crowds to the theater, not through any intrinsic quality and value of their films, but by cheap publicity, propaganda and gimmicks. The film audience are fed on generous display of female anatomy,. The films are promise to be hot’ and exciting and devised to ‘bare all nad many people in the manner in which Menka lured and seduced Vishvamitra, the famous rishi. Come Friday and there is excitement in the air over the possibilities of new and ‘hotter’ films.
The typical Indian film is a pot poori of the crude St forms of vulgarity. There is the comedian, uttering the filthiest of dialogues either puns, innuends and double-entendres to evoke cat calls and whistles from the front benchers. Then there is a lovey-dove pair of the hero and the heroine bursting into spontaneous songs some of which have suggestive, vulgar, serial connotations, with a Coco pony of sounds for back ground music. The Hero and heroine are symbolized as two bodies either one soul and the hugging, petting and kissing that goes with it is ample titillation for the sex-starved viewers. The so-called ‘romantic poses’ and gestures the hero and heroine would make even Vatsyayana, The author of Kamasutra, blush with shame and disgust at the cinematic depravity and coarseness. Besides, in most of the films rain is a convenient device to show the heroine drenched to her skin, the camera exposing her vital statistics to the viewer’s advantage,. Crude suggestions of carnal love are voraciously capitalized upon by the film makers, the cabarets are a big attraction, with a scantily clad Helen or Kalpana Iver or Bindu gyrating vulgarly to the “oohs” and “aah s” of the audience. Above all, a rape scene or two is an essential ingredient of an average Indian film. Rather Thea rousing disgust, such scenes are treated in a manner divided to titillate and arouse the viewer’s passions.
The vulgarity has thus become a major aspect of the average popular Indian films. It may, of course, be appreciated that sex by itself is not ugly or crude; it the way in which it is treated in many an Indian film that makes it obnoxious ans vulgar. Film makers seldom ponder over over the relevance of a scenes with serial overtones in the context their story. Nor do they bother about the artistic value of such scenes. Their motto is; the cruder the more profitable. Such a state of affairs has, unfortunately, crept into the regional films and the so called “art films” as well. Directors seem to think that a “bedroom” or “bathroom” scene is must for every film.
The vulgarity of Indian films is not, however, confined to the depiction of scenes of serial overtones. It is more than evident in the crude humor which is often part of the “sub-plots” in these films. Invariably the humor is at the expense of the nagging wife/hand-picked husband, the witch-like mother-in-law or, what is the least acceptable physical deformities of handicaps like stuttering and lameness.
Furthermore, the lavish setting and glittering costumes form a vulgar display of wealth.
The subject of sexploitation in film needs scanning and serious though. While it is true that world cinema today has reached the stage of films on adult themes and pornographic and blue films, it is to be understood that it is only in keeping with the permissive culture of the West, their norms, values and attitudes to life. The same can neither apply nor should be blindly aged in India. Our tendency to ape something alien to us has only brought credit, vulgarity and obscenity to the treatment of sex and its many aspects on the screen.
Our censor policy has always been paradoxical. It does not believe in a healthy and overt attitude to serial and allied themes which are facts of life. The censor board adopts double standards regarding kissing and sex scenes and also distinguishes between Indian and foreign cinema and characters,. All that is allowed to pass – the vulgar and crude suggestions and symbols, bawdy dialogues and songs – is most damaging and depriving to the impressionable minds of the viewers. The result is that a sex-starved audience accepts crude vulgarity and depravity to satisfy its last for scenes of ‘darling baring’ on the screen. Significantly any International Film Festival held in India is the most welcome holiday from the censors, and there is a mad scramble for tickets sold at exorbitant prices. Black marketeers thrive on hunger of the sex-starved viewers and the so-called passionate lovers of cinema.
There are also sociological reasons for why such vulgarity proves popular. Indian masses are poor but modern means of communications have enhanced their awareness of the world of glamour and riches. The film caters to the escapist desires of these masses. Also to be blamed is the low of education which is inevitably factor in the degeneration of “taste”.
The most damaging influence of crude sex and vulgarity depicted in Indian film is on the immature minds and those belonging to the lower rung of the society. They develop a depraved mentality towards sex and it is therefore hardly surprising that there are increased instances of crude Eve-teasing and even rapes in the society today. The blatant and vulgar display of the female anatomy has resulted in a subtle but sure degeneration in the status f the women. The crude antics of the “comedian also have a detrimental influence on impressionable minds. As a result we have to hear the nonsensical behavior of some of our university students which is often attributed to their” sense of fun and humor”. What a corruption of taste such films has caused!
It is unfortunate that the film makers who hold such a powerful medium of communication in their hands should lack social commitment. Without such commitment the medium degenerates into means of cheap entertainment which seeks to gratify the sensual desires of the viewers rather than make them think over the problems of the society. Thus a means by which positive social action may be brought about has been abused and made a means of negative influence. It is not justification to declare that the public wants scenes of serial overtones and crude humor. Filmmakers of worth could easily provide wholesome entertainment which might, in the long run, draw the public from disgusting display of serial scenes which have little relevance to the theme or plot of a film. There have been instances of low-budget films which have not depended on vulgarity to make a sale. One cane only hope there will be more of such films and less of those that seek to titillate the masses through obscenity and crude humor.