Friday, April 13, 2007

Entrepreneurship, Bollywood Edition

I was watching a bollywood movie and it suddenly hit me as to why there was so much vulgarity regularly in Bollywood movies and not so much in Hollywood. It is very rare for a Bollywood movie in the last 20 years or so to not have very suggestive sexual scenes. The people on the silver screen don't even kiss (that has changed considerably in the last 5 years or so). Believe it or not there is a simple economic explanation to it. The Film Censor Board of India obviously had strict rules about not showing "kissing scenes" in the early days, and film makers had to retain the sex in the movies and show it somehow without the movie being rated A (Adults only), which is expensive both in terms of low turnout generally and the social stigma associated with being caught watching an A rated movie, which would lower the turnout even further thus bringing in losses for the film maker.
Songs and dances were not disallowed, so it probably began with suggestive and sensual song and dance sequences in movies with some exposure. The world has become more and more tolerant of openly sexual behaviour since the 60s. The Indian Censor Board, I conjecture, retains the same laws and mores from time immemorial and is archaic by any definition. Since direct kissing is not allowed in movies other suggestive scenes have crept in to the extent of vulgarity in 99.9% of run-of-the-mill Indian movies. By contrast a Hollywood movie can suggest sex or passion with a kissing scene, so no vulgarity is required, unless the film maker intends vulgarity. With every generation, some aspect that shocked the previous generation becomes generally accepted and that is where the bar is set for the next round. So we notice a progressive degeneration of the portrayal of sexuality in Indian movies. It is not shocking to note that it is the Censor Board that is to blame for this. Neither is the film crazy public to blame nor the film maker. Women's groups that protest the portrayal of women as sexual objects in Indian movies should make note of this when they call directors foul names. The Entrepreneur always finds a way, especially in an industry as lucrative and competitive as Bollywood where there are huge profits to be made.

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