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Last Sunday perhaps marked another day when double standards in Indian television got exposed more than ever before. A National Award winning movie was deemed unfit for screening during prime time at the last minute. OK, now, how many people are willing to believe that no one in the corridors of power was aware of the movie’s contents or its intended time of telecast until a few hours before it was supposed to happen? For almost a fortnight, the channel was screaming out from rooftops that The Dirty Picture was going to be telecast at 12’ noon. Yet, the awakening of wisdom had to happen only at the last moment. But, the bad part is not that the decision had to be such a delayed one. The bad part is that such a decision was in fact taken. It is flabbergasting to say the least. Which part of the world are we living in?

This is not about ‘freedom of expression’ or artistic independence, creative liberty or any of those clichés. We have been around long enough to know that such terms are only myths and that the powers will always try to restrain what one wants to say. We are living in a hypersensitive world where even movies cannot be reviewed without being wary of ruffling feathers, even within your own fold. No more talk about ‘freedom of expression’.

But, what makes one want to stomp in fury is the double standards that are becoming embarrassingly evident in all spheres of media. The powers wanted ‘The Dirty Picture’ to be stopped from being screened because they wanted to protect children from the sexual content and dialogues. Oh my God! Listening to this statement, you might feel that the Indian television scene has been one where you get only pure-family entertainment 24x7 and that The Dirty Picture was threatening to break the shackles. Anyone who watches Indian television can only scoff at this. Sexuality, strong language and even perversion have pervaded Indian television, almost a decade back. Come on, we have Big Boss, all kinds of other nonsense reality shows, ads for condoms, crime reconstructions, divorce mediation talks and news bulletins that are willing to go into the most embarrassing personal details of movie stars. This has been on for years now, all during prime time television. Were these authorities hibernating all these years? How did these ‘chaste’ thoughts pop up out of the blue? We can only believe that there is much more than moral propriety behind all this.

Let’s forget all reality shows and gossip news. Just look at the IPL telecast. It is a glossary of all the abuse words, English and Hindi, as players hurl them at the drop of a hat (or a catch!). The cameras are only too happy to catch all that on close-up and play them back 4-5 times in slow motion so that even the most naïve kid watching the ‘cricket’ is not in any doubt about the expletive that was used. No authority has found any reason to clamp down on this and ask the broadcasters to refrain from focusing more on the lip movements of the players and hip movements of the cheer leaders, than on cricket itself. It goes on uninhibited while The Dirty Picture is getting cold in the cans.

Forget even cricket. It is not as if movies with strong content have never been shown on prime time TV. We have had Mallika Sherawat movies playing on prime time. No one objected to that. Then we have the Hollywood channels which play movies of any nature at any time of the day. Flip through the Hollywood channels and it is quite possible that you will find either sexual content, violence or the ‘four letter word’, on at least one of the channels, any time of the day. No one seems to want to stop that.

What do we understand from this? That young minds of India can be corrupted only by The Dirty Picture? Well, there seems to be nothing else to infer. The powers seem to think that The Dirty Picture is the only media property that threatens to sway India’s young people. Now, you can laugh out loud at that. Only an uninformed mind would believe that those were the real intentions behind the moratorium on the telecast. But, imagining that those were the real intentions, we have a few things to say.

Half of India’s ‘young and uncorrupted’ minds have already seen the film in theatres as almost none of the theatres in the country care to check if kids are entering screens where A rated movies are playing (there are exceptions). And, if you think that ‘young people’ of India wait for something to come on TV to watch it, then you belong in the 1980s. This is the age of the internet! To the authorities who blocked The Dirty Picture: no one believes that you really wanted to protect the innocence of the ‘young’ India. And, if you really want to do so, wake up and look around; there are things much much dirtier than the dirty picture. Let The Dirty Picture play!

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