For long, I have remained silent after many failed attempts to convince Indians about the impact of its media on the nation. But now, after the horrific events that have shocked the entire nation, I feel the need to vocalize all of that built-up frustration and realised there was no better way than to pen my thoughts for others to read, debate and hopefully give it some serious thought.
On the night of December 16 2012, a 23-year-old student was gang-raped and beaten by six drunks to the extent that it left even the doctors who treated her shocked.
The incident has shaken the nation and people have hit the streets demanding answers.
Yes, the government needs to step up and protect our girls – the babies, the school-goers, the college kids, the working classes, the housewives, the grand mothers and let's not forget even the prostitutes and transsexuals. They all have the right to live a life, free of gender bias and abuse, be it sexual, physical or mental. We can blame the police – the so called ‘law enforcers’ for not doing their jobs.
But maybe it’s time for some introspection as well.
The fault is OURS. We did it to that girl and to all the women who have faced the wrath of men over the last so many years that have gone by.
Now you must be wondering – 'How can a nation of 1.2 billion people be blamed for this heinous crime? We had nothing to do with it'. OH YES, WE HAVE! And this is the reason.
India was one of the greatest civilizations on planet earth. Foreign travellers have praised the land for its wealth of knowledge and arts. Is that the India we live in today? No. We’ve become a country where there is intolerance towards nature and its women.
No, I do not blame the West for this. The blame is on us, for munching and relishing everything that is fed to us via the media – the trash we queue up to watch at cinema halls and multiplexes, the trash we watch on our flat screens at home and the trash that is branded ‘entertainment’.
Let’s go back in time a bit.
Twenty years ago, Doordarshan was all we had on which we watched the epics, Ramayana and Mahabaratha. And let’s not forget Antakshari. I remember setting our video cassette recorder to record the He-man and GI-Joe episodes on Sunday mornings, while our family was at church.
Then came cable TV and we were exposed to the West's version of entertainment. Some might argue that the Western culture brings violence with it. But I beg to differ on that. Not a single person I know turned violent or raped women simply because they watched Pamela Anderson run on the sandy beaches of LA, jiggling her silicones.
Take a few minutes off to view the following clip that I happened to find on a friend's Facebook page after the infamous 'Guwahati' molestation case.
Let's not forget this is but a fraction of clips collected from a few Hindi films. A complete collection of such clips over the past 15 years would easily make a compilation of about a day's viewing – and that's from all other regional films that have foolishly picked up on this trend.
To me, this video hits the nail on the head. This is what I have been arguing about with even educated mothers of Indian society. The common reply I get is that this entertainment is made for the masses, for the truck driver, for the labourer – to escape the harsh realities of everyday life, for him to fantasize about what he can never have.
So what are the results of the background checks on the six main accused in the gang rape crime? One is a bus driver, another is a small time assistant gym instructor, another was a fruit-seller who owned a cart and two of them are drivers/helpers. Together, they were out on a 'joy-ride'. They wanted to be entertained.
What did the horrific events of the night begin with?
It all began with these six men passing lewd comments at the girl. When they questioned the couple as to why they were travelling so late, the friend told them to mind their own business. The men then picked a fight that ultimately turned out to be a one-hour bus ride to hell for this young couple.
Now, why does a man have to pass a lewd comment in the first place? I am curious as to what cheap thrill he and his mates would get out of it. What is entertaining about it? What is the source of it all?
Do the fathers of these young men behave likewise? I doubt it, having seen an interview with the father of a culprit on a news channel. The father spoke with honesty, integrity, culture and insisted that if his son was guilty of the crime, he then deserved to be punished.
I would assume this man would've taught his son the same values and principles that he practices. But there has to be other external factors that then drive a young man to forget his upbringing and become some kind of wild animal in heat.
By now, having viewed that video clip, you should be able to connect the dots and pinpoint what these lunatics take back from their heroes of the silver screen. At least I have. In fact, I always had.
The clip is evidence that people in the film circle believe they offer the masses what they want. It's high time we realised that it's not what the audience wants to see, but are forced to see. Did someone run up to Steve Jobs and tell him the people across the world are waiting for a gadget like an iPad? Or did Steve Jobs create the iPad and package it, keeping in mind the needs of the next generation?
We live in a male chauvinistic India, you have to agree. Yes, we worship the lingam, the male phallus, and we have no qualms about it. That's religion and it has been followed for the last 5,000 years of India's history. But maybe it's high time we started thinking about how we worship the phallus' of our silver screen Super Stars.
So what is entertainment to us, the masses? Take a closer look at the montage clips again if you have to.
How does it feel, to watch a man slap a girl and correct her ways? Do you honestly believe it's okay for youngsters to watch reality shows in which the guys are given a cue to slap a girl on the show? Are these reality TV shows also a reflection of our society?
In one clip, the hero admires the curvy waistline of a girl and grabs her. When questioned how he could do so and if he has no shame, he claims that he couldn't stop his hand from doing so. And in another clip that soon follows, the girl is shown enjoying the pinch. How hilarious is that to us? Does it make us laugh?
Oh, I apologise. I failed to realise that those scenes were meant to excite the male audience, for your husbands, sons and boyfriends while you and your daughters sit next to them and watch on with a grin.
Indian Cinema until the 1990s had women playing pivotal roles in films. Today, a handful of actresses portray those characters and carry films on their shoulders. The rest of them are just bimbos and 'item girls'.
'Item'. Now what does that mean? In Bollywood the term 'item' refers to the branding of a woman who is featured in a random song sequence, wearing skimpy clothes and dancing to titillate the men. It has now become the industry fad. All films should have an 'item girl' featured in an 'item number'.
What amuses me is that both the culprit and the victim watch and enjoy the same trash film. Unfortunately, what they both take away from the big screen is the fuel for the fire. The women walk out wanting to groove and imitate the same steps to the catchy tracks in pubs and discos. The men want to imitate their heroes, slapping and spanking these girls.
I have no issues with girls wanting to groove in any manner and to any song of their choice. But the lunatic men are influenced by their heroes who dis-respect the bimbos on screen.
On a more serious note, did you catch the track 'I wanna Fakht you'? To be honest, I have no problems with slang in films. I use slang but I would avoid it in the presence of a young child. But let me explain my issues with regards to this track.
The makers of the film were hoping to release the film with a 'U' certification from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Fortunately, and I am thankful to the CBFC, they spotted the issue and refused them their certification. Hence, the makers reverted to their BACKUP plan and re-edited the song, releasing it as 'I WANNA JUST YOU' and thereby got their 'U' Certification.
'Fakht' in Marathi means 'Just', claims the actress who played the Item girl. So it translates to 'I wanna just you' and apparently it was intended to be a naughty track. But there's a catch that most likely only Marathis would have understood the sub text and picked up on it.
How about the people in all the other states of the country where these films are released and who speak other languages? How about your children? You think your 6th grade school-going son would not discuss the previous night's show with the skimpy item girl singing 'I wanna fakht you'?
The way I see it is, all you women throng the cinema halls, paying a fortune for three hours of entertainment that portrays you as bimbos, nothing more than an 'item' and a sex doll to be degraded and slapped around by every man that walks this earth.
And who benefits? The brains behind the entertainment. They make their crores. They drive the fancy cars. They live the life with 24-hour security for their women and children, while you and your daughters walk the streets and face the abuse for wanting to be free.
And we shouldn't spare the news channels (be it TV, paper, radio or the net) and their reporters who praise these 'so called talented' stars who compete to make it into the Rs 100-200 crore clubs. They pat their backs and stroke these stars for their record achievements, lifting them and placing them on pedestals for the rest of the nation to worship and look up to as role models of the future generations.
I am not against music and dance as forms of entertainment. And I am not saying that Indian Cinema is trash.
I have immense respect and admiration for some of the biggest names in both Bollywood and regional Indian Cinema and also for many of the smaller independent ones who strive to tell stories, who strive to be honest, who strive to create, who strike a balance between entertainment and the arts. They are the ones who have handled passion, sex, rape and violence in the most sensitive manner.
It's high time we Indians started questioning what really entertains us. I believe we as Indians are way more intelligent than that. If we fail to do so, as the last hip-hop track in that video clip suggests, we'd have to – mooh main le (Take it in the mouth).
Rohit is a London based Director/Scriptwriter. Having been brought up in Chennai, Indian cinema played an integral part of his entertainment and is one of the main factors in his decision to enter the field. The degradation of Indian entertainment over the last 15 years and its impact on the audience is however something he passionately criticises.