From mannequins to dance bars - the things that get the Maharashtra government’s kacchas in a twist are many. And they seem to have the best interest of us women at heart. Which explains why I saw what I saw when I picked up my trusty newspaper to read that the Maharashtra Home Minister was still morally outraged by dance bars in the city. While I didn’t find out anything about his reason for abhorring women making an honest living in a pretty brutal conditions, I did feel like I had walked into Sodom and Gommorah meets Jhumri Talaiya.
Along with laments about the deluge of immorality that will follow the reopening of dance bars, there was a full page ad for a new film, Grand Masti. The ad featured three thespians – Riteish Deshmukh, Aftab Shivadasani and Viveik Oberoi. It seems the trio don’t have just strangely spelt names in common, but also a love for the worst kind of ribald cinema (and I use the word very, very loosely). The ad shows the three of them with a white Persian cat. Nothing wrong with that, you say. Well, the cat had a large red velvet locket on its neck which has the word “PUSSY” emblazoned on it.
In the second poster I saw, placed in another newspaper, the actors were seated. Behind them stood three women fondling the men. Coming out from between their legs were three other, prostate women. One was holding a frankfurter in her hand; the other, a banana; the third, an uncorked and fizzing champagne bottle.
Perhaps these ads show simple masti, or merriment, and it’s my mind that’s in the gutter. Maybe the film is about a group of girlfriends who like eating proteins and fruits along with some bubbly (who doesn’t want a balanced diet?). Maybe the first poster shows friends who are also animal lovers, particularly the feline variety.
Here’s a short synopsis. What you see are graphic depictions in which the aforementioned thespians either lech at women —some of whom open beer bottles with their bras and walk around colleges in bikinis — or masturbating or getting erections. In case you didn’t get the point that Grand Masti 2 is a sex comedy, there are also set-ups and dialogues filled with what hopes to be innuendo but is actually just crass.
For example, there are heartfelt laments like, “Yeh biwiyan mangalsutra pehen ke, kama sutra kyun bhool jaate hai yaar?” (Why is it that these wives forget about the kama sutra when they start wearing mangalsutras?) And cleavaged women issue invitations like,“Mere to bahut badi doodh ke factory hai. Agar aaj raat tum free ho, toh mein tumhe mere dono doodh ki factory ke darshan doongi.” (I have very large milk factories. If you’re free tonight, I’ll give you a darshan of both my milk factories.) Even I can’t make up dialogue like this. As a clincher, the last scene of the trailer shows Aftab Shivdasani ringing an alarm bell with his erect penis. Who would have thought the Farex baby would would come to this?
My bone of contention (pun not intended at all) with the film is not that it’s immoral or that no film starring Viveik Oberoi, Aftab Shivadaasani and Ritesi Deshmukh should ever be made on aesthetic grounds. (Good arguments, both, if you ask me.) It’s just that everything about Grand Masti 2’s promotional material is in very poor taste, which suggests the film itself will be significantly worse. There’s nothing wrong with ribald comedy, but why is it so hard for Bollywood to make one that a woman can watch without cringing?
It’s weirdly serendipitous that Grand Masti 2’s trailer came out around the time that the Supreme Court rapped the Maharashtra government’s knuckles for having shut down dance bars. The politicians are now grumbling that the SC’s striking down of the ban is going to mean a deluge of lasciviousness. I find it odd that the same people who think banning dance bars - which can only be frequented by adults and not anyone with the price of a stall ticket and/or access to the internet – for moral degradation are blind to the obscenity in a film. Which is more detrimental to the way women are perceived by the man on the street and at home?
Government censors won’t allow Hollywood films to expose us to the idea of nudity or a liplock and tiresome disclaimers will strain to point out a cigarette can result in cancer, but there’s no criticism of, for example, Viveik Oberoi feeling up the naked breasts of a marble statue. Because Oberoi dry-humping a statue is supposedly humour. If immoral behaviour shows up in places like dance bars, doesn’t it begin in films like Grand Masti 2 that tell its audience that women exist only to satisfy the male libido? If you’re going to have three 'Smoking Is Injurious To Your Health' notices at the start of a film in which a cigarette is seen for a minute at best, perhaps the Censor Board should put up a public service announcements before films like Race and Grand Masti 2 that says Placing Hands On or Ogling at Women’s Breasts Against Her Will Is Injurious to Dignity and Reputation (And Health, If She Is Inclined to Beat The Crap Out Of You As This Author Would Be). Maybe even have a 4-minute public awareness film like the tobacco one: “This is Vinod, he made unsolicited sexual advances towards women and he is now brain dead, and so might you be if you paw women you meet.”
All our moral outrage is useless if it’s only targeted at Honey Singh, whose lyrics and songs most Indians - I’m sorry to inform all you Northies out there - cannot understand. But a Hindi film with such graphic depiction of unsolicited sexual overtures doesn’t require great linguistic skill to be understood. Instead of banning dance bars and telling women to not eat chow mein and not wear jeans, maybe someone should consider what we consider general entertainment in this country? Considering the immaturity of the grown men we see in our public spheres, does it help to label something ‘adult’?
Of course, there is the flipside: people like Indra Kumar, the director of Grand Masti 2, are providing honest albeit vulgar employment to a bunch of actors whom no one else would cast. But must the public be assaulted by it? Where’s the moral police when you need them, dammit? And no, telling me I didn’t need to see the poster isn’t going to hold water. It was a full page ad in my mainline newspaper. If you must be ribald, spare the innocent news reader the torture. And if you can’t, I’d suggest the Censor Board commission that Unwanted Sexual Advances awareness film soon. As long as these films are allowed to be circulated and accessed by people of all ages, it would do the Maharashtra government well to keep shut about the sexual objectification of women in dance bars. First do something about your state’s film industry and the tripe it’s churning out. Also, as your first good Samaritan gesture maybe it’s time to lock Riteish, Aftab and Viveik up and throw the key away.