Since the late 1970s, till the profusion of the internet, Kerala had been the single-most important of source of titillation for the rest of India and neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The soft-porn movies that the state produced those days reached every corner of the region in different languages.
These films followed a failure-proof business-model, a separate assembly-line and their own star-structure, which once looked more prolific than the stars of the mainstream industry. However, with the advent of cheap broadband, they died a natural death in the hands of those who made MMS-clips and home-made scandal videos, and long and explicit Youtube-conversations between lonely women and lustful youngsters.
After the porn-to-scandal video transition, the state seems to have been restless in breaking new ground with more potent material. And it finally seems to have succeeded.
The new product is a crossover between politics and sex, the two unavoidable obsessions for the people in the state. And for a change, this hybrid is sold publicly and on prime time TV. Discussions on the illicit sex lives of politicians in explicit details seems to be legitimate erotica that even kids happen to watch.
As Firstpost noted, google for Jose Thettayil, a veteran Kerala politician with four decades of public service, and what floods your computer screen is not his Wikipedia page or his MLA-profile, but a one minute sex-clip which shows his posterior and a woman in bed.
Not that the rest of India hasn't seen politicians filmed with women in intimate situations; but for Kerala, this is a visual-breakthrough after an incessant series of sex scandals involving its politicians.
Jose Thettayil is in fact far from a natural choice to star in a scandal and was quick to dismiss the clip as morphed because the girl was a “computer expert”, while his party, a Left-leaning faction of the Janata Dal, chose to side with him. He went into hiding to prevent arrest, as well as to prepare his legal defence, while the wife of another veteran politician, who was once charged of sexual attack by a senior IAS officer, defended him on television.
She said Thettayil was a victim rather than a victimiser. It’s not coincidental that the TV channel picked this woman-politician to defend Thettayil, because it also gave the channel an opportunity to surreptitiously dig up the details of the sex-scandal against her husband.
Let’s try to look at the complete picture of the new phenomenon and the principal characters, including the master story-tellers. In fact, more than the characters, it is these story-tellers who take the story forward and create new benchmarks in narration of sleaze.
First, the litany of politico-sex scandals that for the time being is focussed on Thettayil.
The Thettayil-video has partially eclipsed an ongoing scandal that the state is obsessed with - the “solar scam” - in which a cohabiting couple cheated people across the state promising them solar panels and shares in solar plants. Going by the merit of the case, it was purely yet another Ponzi scheme that people of the state easily fell for.
But what dominated the political chatter on the solar scandal was sexual in nature because one of the fraudsters was a desirable woman, who was constantly speaking on the phone to two of the key personal staff of the Chief Minister Oomen Chandy. One was his personal assistant and the other, his bodyguard. They were making calls to each other so frequently that even the her partner-in-cheating, an alleged serial fraud and a murder-accused, became suspicious and jealous. The bodyguard apparently had made 400 calls to her.
What should have become a political discussion on impropriety or possible corruption, because the phones that were used belonged to Chandy's aides, had become only about the woman and the men. These stories were abundantly garnished with sexual innuendoes.
And the man, the master story teller, who led this sleaze-talk was none other than the opposition leader VS Achuthanandan. Speaking to the media, he said “this woman apparently had something special” to attract men. He kept repeating this with effusive glee and an indiscreet gesture. Many other opposition politicians also referred to the same angle.
In the state assembly, the leader of the opposition even took the same angle with reference to the chief minister’s family. The speaker had to switch off the microphone of Achuthanandan and even express dismay over what he was attempting to say. His words were expunged, but he said almost whatever he wanted to say in a press conference outside the house. It certainly was more sexually loaded muck.
Neither Achuthanandan nor the other opposition leaders spoke of the victims of the scandal, how the same couple got away cheating people during the Left Front rule, and how to recover the money people lost.
Besides the chief minister’s personal staff, Achuthanandan and opposition politicians also targeted a former minister, Ganesh Kumar, who had lost his ministry on account of allegations of sexual dalliances with other women by his wife. The con-man in the solar scam alleged on TV that the same minister was in a relationship with his partner, and that had brought the company down.
The opposition leaders and the media immediately borrowed his line and revelled in the sleaze.
Just before the “solar-scam”, it was the sex-life of Ganesh that the state was obsessed with. Both the print and TV channels carried lurid stories, attributed to his wife, about the details of his rendevouz with his paramour, and how he was a habitual womaniser for several years. The scandal finally consumed his ministership and threatened to finish his career. People in his constituency, where he has been unassailable, now say that the slur in his image might cost him dearly in the next elections.
And before Ganesh?
Oh, there was the never-ending saga of industries minister Kuhalikkutty and his alleged sexual exploitation of a few minor girls, and the Deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha PJ Kurien’s alleged rape of the “Suryanelli girl”. Both the cases, although old and settled by the courts in the country, never seem to die because the media and public appetite for sex-scandals seems to be undying.
The victim in this obsession with scandals is truth.
Even after decades, we don’t know the real truth of Kunhalikutty and Kurien although every now and then, new details come out for the state to perseverate with. After the Ganesh and solar scam, the Kunhalikutty episode is now itching to come back with two alleged victims seeking to implead in the case. One has really lost count of the times the victims spoke to the media with new revelations.
And before Kunhalikutty and Kurien?
Two very powerful local leaders of the CPM and a serial turn-coat who was once a Congress MP from the state capital. Then, there was this veteran Congress leader, the late K Karunanakaran, who lost his office of the chief minister for his alleged involvement in an imaginary spy scandal, which in essence was a conjured up sex-scandal involving two Maldivian women.
Among many other incidents, a senior congress leader was humiliated by local CPM workers and even arrested by police when he visited a woman party worker’s house and a CPM-turned-Congress MLA was scandalised for travelling with a woman in his car.
Unfortunately, these are not benign sex-talks that people indulge in for a little fun and titillation, but are exploitative devices used by the deadly combo of the media and opportunistic politicians. Besides degenerating and vitiating the socio-cultural and political environment of the state, and sustaining a medieval moral air, it precludes genuine political debates, including in the public funded state assembly.
Opposition leader Achuthanandan is undeniably one of the sex-and-politics bards engaged in this ribaldry. The other is PC George, perhaps the biggest prime time TV-channel hoppers in the state, strangely from the ruling UDF camp itself. His unhindered diatribes against Ganesh and Thettayil have created new benchmarks for morality in the state.
If they both are on air, you need to ask your underage children to close their eyes and ears. And, if anybody is serious in taking on Kerala model of development, this is certainly a terribly weak spot that they can expose.