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Taboo or not taboo

  • Published at 12:02 am October 31st, 2016
Taboo or not taboo

I am not a big TV fan, not anymore at least. No use wasting time watching schlock. Wonder what happened to the culture of airing at least one English serial every day.

Anyway, there’s been quite a lot of brouhaha recently over a TV advert of a non-alcoholic malt drink, featuring a current member of the national cricket team.

On the grounds that the content of the TVC undermines “our conservative culture,” and is too suggestive sexually, the commercial was taken off air.

Reportedly, there has been a storm of protest in the media over the content of the ad which shows that a missing Sabbir Rahman (cricketer) is discovered by a luscious female police officer while hiding in a secret room in his home with a stack of drinks.

The officer handcuffs the sportsman to her wrist, smiles seductively, to which Sabbir says: “Now some privacy is required.”

That’s the gist of the less-than-one minute advert.

One is perplexed as to what conservative charade we are trying to put up in front of society. The commercial was obviously made with an air of levity and, if body spray commercials showing women in droves running after the male model wearing that fragrance can be aired, then why not this?

Also, we have had far more explicit adverts in the past; take, for example, the Panther condom “ashol purush” (real man) commercial where there is even a scene which shows the wife, while making a glass of hot milk for the husband, breaking into a blush when she is asked if the drink is for their child.

Then, in the same commercial, the man in question is awarded a medal in the morning with “ashol purush” engraved on it -- the ultimate endorsement from the wife of his “panther-like” sexual prowess the night before.

There’s been an advert for another contraceptive where “role playing” was used as a basis, with the relation between the man and woman not fully explained.

Despite our attempts to portray/eulogise a non-physical romance between young men and women in dramas and other entertainment, in the real world, intimacy before marriage is hardly a taboo

The rationale for proscribing the recent advert is that, since the sportsperson is an idol for millions of young people, his role in such a commercial with wicked undertones will have detrimental impact on his image.

I find this preposterous. An idol for the young is another young man, at the top of his sport. Do we expect this icon to be an example of pseudo-Puritanism?

By stating that we cannot have young sporting personalities acting their age, we are putting them in a straight-jacket.

A question may arise as to what the definition of a conservative society actually is: Does it mean, under a façade of modesty, we allow all sorts of vices to take place?

Sorry, but in this so-called conservative society, we have licensed bars operating all over the major cities, escort services advertised on the net, fraudsters running wedding scams, burqa-clad women peddling drugs, hotels from the low end to the top radically changing their operations after dark, with commercial films having a firm rule that each and every actress has to be uninhibited in showing flesh to hit it big.

How come the task of safeguarding conservative values falls on cricket players only and not on actors, dancers, or sports persons of any other discipline?

Living in a culture where pretense rules, we seem to be promoting an ethos of contradiction. If an advert, made with the sole intention of adding a little piquancy, can be banned on the premise that this may derail young people, one shudders to think the damaging impact of erotically charged item numbers in feature-length Bangla movies.

Just to give you an idea, a recent song, featuring a rising actress, shows her dancing provocatively in front of testosterone-charged men in what appears to be a cabaret, singing the line: “Piriter blank check ami, ne na bhangaiya” (I am love’s blank check, just cash me in as you wish).

The close shots of strategic parts of the body are there, completing the requirement of the “spicy” piece, essential for a movie.

So these films are shown all over the country, attracting mainly young people, and they are not having any impact on their morals.

This futile exercise of desperately trying to keep up the veneer of a conservative society has other ramifications; this makes us disingenuous to the core.

Subterfuge and chicanery are the eventual results of trying to keep up a fabricated picture.

Truth is, society has evolved; whether the changes are beneficial or not is a moral debate left for the philosophers.

When a society transforms it adopts both redeeming and not-so-edifying traits.

The bottom line remains: We have subconsciously assimilated many ideas which might have raised total outrage 20 years ago.

Despite our attempts to portray/eulogise a non-physical romance between young men and women in dramas and other entertainment, in the real world, sex before marriage is hardly a taboo.

Therefore, there is a wide difference between what we are showing and what is taking place in reality.

Living under an illusion is how I would describe this. Good to keep in mind: Impact of fantasy is transient, we cannot go on pretending to be locked in a make believe world.

Social credo has undergone a metamorphosis -- this needs to be understood, openly acknowledged.

A commercial which is based on frivolity, aiming for some silly laughs, should not be taken out of context.

Cricketers are humans, they have their virtues, some follies too, and, being young, the right to be a little mischievous.

When someone is sent out wearing the national colours, let’s not expect that person to turn into a paradigm of moral righteousness.

Towheed Feroze is a journalist currently working in the development sector.

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