By Purba Ray Mar. 15, 2021
Netflix’s Bombay Begums was doing it all right. No Hindu deities were shown in poor light, imagined or otherwise, and women were observing Karva Chauth. Then the makers made a mistake that’s become so common. They decided to throw light on the very real problem of substance abuse among teens. How dare they?
Bombay Begums is a really nice watch if you fast-forward it. The women characters discover emancipation from asshole men and women by having affairs with them. A long deceased wife’s sari gets added to the long list of the many ways one can masturbate to. It somehow felt wrong and contrived. But thankfully my religious sentiments were not hurt. My neck felt extreme discomfort though, watching Pooja Bhatt nurse a severe case of spondylitis she never wanted to recover from all through the series. No Hindu deities were shown in poor light, imagined or otherwise. In fact, women who were corporate warriors during the day were shown observing Karva Chauth with so much gusto and relish, it would have made Karan Johar proud. You’d think the makers of Bombay Begums have learnt from the mistakes of their peers and got it all right. After all, no one wants to risk a Tandav these days.
But this is India. If you are in the entertainment business these days, you are overwhelmed by the astounding number of choices to hurt someone’s sentiments. And in all probability, your creative licence is being held hostage by the proud Indian who is even more sensitive than a woman’s clitoris.
Bombay Begums hurt the sentiments of two Twitter users for showing a 13-year-old snort cocaine. It’s immaterial that the show does not glorify drug abuse but intends to throw light on the issue. Do we really need another show rooted in reality? Now, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has asked Netflix to stop airing the show for its “inappropriate portrayal” of children. They fear the show could “pollute young minds” and also result in abuse and exploitation of children.
Does it matter that the show has an 18+ rating, which means it is not for children to watch? Does it matter that drug abuse is a problem plaguing India’s affluent teens? Why do our shows need to hold a mirror to society? Let’s please look the other way even as lakhs of children need help for their dependence on substances. After all, running away from reality is our national sport.
Does it matter that drug abuse is a problem plaguing India’s affluent teens?
Let’s just focus all our energies on fictional dramas. Bristle with rage when it shows the dark reality of India’s rich teens but gather around the TV to watch Pehredaar Piya Ki and go awww over a nine-year-old romancing his 18-year-old bride. While we are at it, let’s frown at Munna, our 12-year-old “servant” for eating too many rotis after slaving from morning to night. On weekends, we can pretend child labour is from Mars and minors being trafficked is from Venus.
Streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix have absolutely no business focussing on our social and political realities. Why on earth should we be made aware of them, and then reflect and god forbid, work towards a future that allows everyone to live a life of dignity? Instead, let’s continue to behave like parents who sprint towards the remote to switch off the TV, the moment there’s a rape scene, instead of sitting with children, telling them why it is a grievous crime.
When we call for a ban on books, movies, and shows that put the spotlight on uncomfortable truths, we make them go away – just the way after the demand for the boycott of Patal Lok, caste division has ceased in India and the harassment of minorities has stopped. And if the drug scene from Bombay Begums is deleted, it will stop the exploitation of children. There’s so much to learn from an Ostrich that buries its head under the sand the moment it senses danger. Danger just walks away in a huff towards sunset.
Just remember, your sentiments waiting to get hurt is your superpower. It does a fantastic job of uplifting your sense of worthlessness. So what if you haven’t made a single notable contribution to society, steered clear of meaningful pursuits, and spent most of your day spewing venom on Twitter. At least you have the ability to silence, intimidate just like a certain Goswami with your cacophonous rage. It’s time we imbeciles whose sentiments never get hurt accept that only you have the monopoly over what’s good for the nation. And with your rage, you have the power to decide what we should watch.
Just remember, your sentiments waiting to get hurt is your superpower.
So, please accept our gratitude for your diligence in working towards an intolerant, humourless society. Since there’s no show that doesn’t offend you, let’s give creativity a quick burial. Fiction is more important than facts. Humour is to be taken with utmost seriousness and serious issues, ignored. Stand-up comics, journalists, media professionals deserve to be jailed for doing their jobs. There is no bigger threat to India than them.
Ram willing if you succeed, we’ll soon be back to the good old days of only Krishi Darshan, Ramayana and Mahabharata on TV. Draupadi’s “cheerharan” will be reimagined as her unboxing when she’s presented as a gift to her brothers-in-law by her husbands. Because why risk death threats, sedition charges, and a prison term when you can make Sasural Simar Ka!
Nearly funny, almost liberal, rarely serious, Purba likes to keep a safe distance from perfection. Unfortunately she has an opinion on everything, fact or fiction, beginnings or ends, light or heavy, long and short.