A lady calls the police station and says there’s a nude man in the opposite building and it’s causing her a lot of “mental disturbances”. The police officer comes to her house and she takes him into the kitchen and says stand on this stool and now look through the telescope on the third building. Such is the gist of Vedika Chaubey’s letter to the Chembur police station complaining about the nude photograph of the actor Ranveer Singh. She also goes on to say that she was amused to see his nude photographs on his personal Instagram and Twitter account. According to her, this was a method of earning money by damaging the culture and traditions of India. Yet another complaint filed by Ashish Rai, an advocate, to the Maharashtra State Commission of Women states: “Ranveer Singh’s picture offends the dignity of women and small children.” And some of these sections are so vague and so vast that any word, gesture or act can insult the modesty of a woman. The law needs to clearly define what construes the modesty or immodesty of a woman.
I spoke to 10 young girls, the oldest being 50, who did not find the photographs offensive. The general response was that he has a good-looking body and what is wrong if he has posted such pictures. And yet one of the girls added that if men can enjoy titillation by looking at women’s photographs, why can’t women enjoy male nudity. What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. The male genitalia is not among God’s beautiful creations. Irrespective of its importance in evolution. Today, anybody can file a complaint about anything. In 1954, the late Akbar Padamsee was arrested for a nude painting where a man was holding on to a woman’s breast. The judge acquitted the artist saying that there was nothing offensive about the painting. In the world of art, the human body has been a great source of expression. There’s literature and poetry about the distinction between the naked and the nude.
The lawyer’s allegation was that these photographs damage the culture and tradition of India. To take a broader look at our culture much before the world woke to Masters and Johnson, we had our Kamasutra that gets into minor details on enjoying the sexual act. We elevated the author to the rank of a rishi (sage) and he is called Rishi Vatsyayana. Talks about arousal, how to, what to, and everything you wanted to know about sex. Is this not a part of our culture? It is estimated that Kamasutra was written in 400 BC. Since then, we have been hurting the sentiments of women. Let’s look at our miniature paintings of Radha and Krishna, whether it is the Rajput, Pahadi, or the Rajasthani School there is a world of sensuality… within these highly artistic works with strong undertones of desire and sexual liberty. This is evident in museums, art books, sculptures. It seems that female nudity is more acceptable than male nudity.
Let us go to the Kumbh Mela, there are thousands of these naaga sadhus who go around making a spectacle of themselves and these pictures are all over the internet. The naaga sadhus know how to pose for photographs, how to show their naked bodies to young girls, knowing that these pictures will be published on the Net. Isn’t it strange that if a normal person shows his genitals in public, it is offending and indecent behaviour whereas when a religious man does that it is fine? People take pictures of these sadhus for which the sadhu probably charges money and everyone is fascinated and not offended. There was a young sadhu who had a bell tied with a string around his genitalia and women who tugged at the bell would be blessed with a male child. Ridiculous as this sounds but he made quite a drama about himself and a huge crowd gathered around. I have been to two Kumbh and have seen so much of these antics, that it’s laughable how people get drawn into it. Indian culture?
Travel into Central India, the Madhya Bharat region where there are river banks. The temples there attract naaga sadhus who roam around with two or three followers wanting money, and of course free meals etc… There is a whole treatise of naaga sadhus, their origin, the naked Shaivite aesthetics believe to be a part of a cult started by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. The naaga sadhus usually smoke ganja, consume bhaang and opium, and in true Shaivite tradition they are accorded the respect of having the first dip in the Ganges during the shaahi snaan. The narcotics department dare not get into their akhadas. Let’s take a trip to the Khajuraho temples. Built in the years, 885 to 1000 AD, these temples can put Playboy and Playgirl to shame. Every conceivable position and act of sex is there for all to see. How does one define Indian culture with its very broad outlook to sex and sensuality?
Let’s look at our folklore. Listen to some of the Bhojpuri songs on the net where the devar is happily banging away at his Bhabhi: Badi chatur bhaujai re man laaga devar se… pao bhar rabdi khila more devar pa ban jaaungi teri lugai re… dheere dheere khatiya khisakakar more devara utha jaayega tera bhai re… the song goes on. I wonder what bhaiya feels about this. This is a song that is sung in Central India during weddings with great abundance. In today’s urban society, there is the non-veg joke and at any gathering one would listen to. “Thoda non-veg joke hai, yeh chalega?” And it became a very accepted thing at dinner parties and groups of ladies would sometimes tell each other. The term non-veg is a far more appropriate label than a dirty joke. However, WhatsApp has changed all that and now nobody needs to tell a non-veg joke.
There isn’t such a media storm around Ranveer’s naked pictures, given how easily the media can work itself up into a lather about the most trivial things. Just two complaints. I hope Ranveer is not disappointed. I wonder how this will end, the simple answer is: you no like, you no see.