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Savita Bhabhi - Can India Stomach Porn?

by Tanya Thomas on  July 30, 2009 at 10:03 AM Lifestyle News   - G J E 4
In the land of the Kama Sutra, it was the cartoon escapades of a buxom, sexually liberated married woman that finally proved a broken taboo too far for the Indian government censors.
 Savita Bhabhi - Can India Stomach Porn?
Savita Bhabhi - Can India Stomach Porn?
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Savita Bhabhi, the star of her eponymous online porn strip, had titillated up to 60 million visitors monthly until the government asked Internet service providers to block the site in June.

Now she lives on in the heated debate surrounding her sudden demise.

The government issued the orders under laws normally applied to websites deemed to be a threat to national security, prompting fans to question why the axe fell on a cartoon featuring a libidinous housewife rather than the more explicit material easily accessible on the Internet.

While not entirely Indian in its creation -- Savita Bhabhi is the brainchild of Puneet Agarwal, a 38-year-old British businessman of Indian-origin -- observers say the storyline may have hit too close to home for government censors.

"Bhabhi" means "sister-in-law" in Hindi -- specifically an older brother's wife -- and the name was ostensibly chosen to highlight her status as a married woman, making her promiscuity more scandalous.

Still, it is unclear whether the government was more outraged by what it viewed as an assault on Indian values or by the cartoon's graphic depictions of sex.

Pornography is a thorny issue in India, but the private cubicles fitted in internet cafes show that, despite the prudish veneer, there is an appetite for x-rated material in this culturally conservative nation.

A survey conducted last year by India Today magazine found that three out of five men and one out of five women approved of pornography, which is illegal but widely available in India.

From softcore magazines to underground movie theatres offering adult entertainment for labourers and truck drivers in regional languages, there has always been an element of secrecy involved in procuring and consuming so-called "blue" goods in the country.

"Whether they accept it or not, most Indians are exposed to porn," says Tushar Amin, editor of men's magazine FHM India.

"To come out in the open and say that we watch this is something that takes balls, and we don't have them as of now. But the fact is that everyone does it."

While locally-made pornography -- featuring both voluntary actors and those forced into the trade -- has always found an audience, Savita Bhabhi was marketed as India's first global porn star, with around 30 percent of web traffic coming from outside the country.

The coyly-scripted sexual scenes -- where she romps with everyone from a servant boy to a bra salesman -- have even been translated into French and Mandarin.

Sociologist Gita Chadha of Russell Square International College in Mumbai says the cartoon's internationalisation has been a source of both pride and shame for Indians.

"There are those who are glorifying the fact that it is the Indian sari-clad woman who is shown as a so-called liberated and independent person," she says.

"But there are those who are looking at it in terms of 'How could they do this to our mother, sister or daughter?'"

Even those involved in the adult entertainment industry accept the limits of creative expression in countries like India, says self-styled "Indian Playboy" Richard Menon, founder of US-based erotic film production house Ecstasyvision.

"The Savita Bhabhi comics were great," says Menon, who moved to the United States in 1989, but adds: "I feel that it offended a lot of people and traditions."

Menon believes the website ban was "justified keeping in mind what India is."

"It has to do with how mature a society is amongst other factors."

But Chadha and Amin agree that given the reach of the internet and the lack of control over the distribution of pornography on the street, bans like the one on Savita Bhabhi are futile.

"In a democracy particularly they don't work and in an economy that is becoming more and more open to global markets it's almost impossible," says Chadha.

"We are not yet ready to accept the fact that we have the emotional or societal maturity to watch porn," adds Amin.

Source: AFP
TAN

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