Entertainment Bollywood 01 Aug 2021 Peddling soft-porn a ...

Peddling soft-porn as erotica

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | GITA HARI
Published Aug 2, 2021, 12:09 am IST
Updated Aug 2, 2021, 12:09 am IST
Raj Kundra’s arrest has stirred a hornet’s nest but erotica and soft porn are not new to the Indian audience
A still from Fuh se Fantasy which airs on Voot is an anthology of stories about sexual fantasies
 A still from Fuh se Fantasy which airs on Voot is an anthology of stories about sexual fantasies
Are you Gen-Z flashing a smartphone, binge-watching uncensored, on-the-go OTT content? A pervert millennial addicted to soft-porn films on apps? Or just an aimless lockdown victim stuck with viewing erotica on the digital platform?
Raj Kundra’s arrest for filming and distributing adult content through mobile apps has stirred a hornet’s nest. Erotica and soft porn are not new to the Indian audience. Video player was introduced in the Indian market in the 1980s and since then dubious stalls have been touting pornography.
However, filming and producing hard-core porn films after luring women under the garb of roles in web series and trapping them under duress takes fraudulence, debauchery and crudity to the next level. And Kundra, let’s be clear, had the gumption to set four other apps as back-up after Hotshots was taken down from Apple and Google Play. The Mumbai police have discovered that the porn racket has an extended grid involving several small production houses linked to the now-obliterated Hotshots.
 
Government’s directives
 
In October 2018, the Government of India directed Internet service providers to block 827 websites that host pornographic content following an order by the Uttarakhand High Court. The court cited the rape of a 10th standard girl by four of her seniors. The four accused told police that they raped the girl after watching pornography. Government suggested a self-regulatory module and SonyLiv, Voot, Hotstar and Jio agreed to form a Digital Content Complaint Council (DCCC). But this was opposed by leading OTT platforms such as Netflix, MX Player and AltBalaji.
All said and done, Siddharth Chandrashekhar, an advocate in the Bombay High Court, believes that above all, the Acts have to go through the test of public order, decency and morality. “It is imperative that erotica and pornography laws are demarcated and defined with regard to a community’s standards at a prevailing time while keeping in mind the constantly changing moral standards,” he asserts.
Today, most apps and websites safeguard themselves by inserting a disclaimer and an R-rated viewership, which requires audiences to provide their date of birth prior to viewing certain contents supposed to be accessible for a mature audience.
Nivedita Basu Producer/Director, former Creative Director at Balaji Telefilms, says, “Presently, working for BiiggBang as a content and acquisition head, we promote ourselves as a family and entertainment OTT. So anything that comes close to even skin show or French kiss is a ‘No’ for us because we know our family audience will get disconnected.”
 
The dividing line
 
Erotica and porn often overlay each other in our minds. Most Apps pay a lot of attention while portraying a sexual act, leaving little to the imagination. To quote Oscar Wilde, “To wit, there is no such thing as an erotic-pornography continuum; there is only excellently rendered versus poorly rendered sexually stimulating material.”
Gandi Baat, touted as ‘Urban stories from rural India’, sprung from the stable of ALTBalaji to cement the way forward for adult content. For the first time, it was the animal instincts from a female angle that grabbed the eyeballs. Fuh se Fantasy on Voot with focus on roleplay is an anthology of stories about sexual fantasies, promoted as the new-age relationships, which don’t cringe to indulge in their bizarre and wacky lasciviousness.
Yet, some platforms do leave some things to the imagination and manage to get past the law.
“Erotica is not defined by our laws as they exist today, but it is implied to be a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, cinematographic film or sound recording of sexual nature but having artistic appeal and value and is celebrated as such. It seeks to explain a narrative embracing sexual themes” explains Siddharth Chandrashekhar. “Pornography, on the other hand, is content that caters to purely the carnal sexual instinct with the sole intention to titillate, stimulate or create a sexual craving. Evidently, the line that divides erotica and pornography boils down to the intent and probable resultant effect.”
In essence, what is prosaic to one may be carnality to another and vice versa.
 
Passed on as dramatic content
 
Drama is the euphemistic umbrella under which almost anything is given the rubber-stamp — from erotica to soft porn. Gandi Baat, Mastram, Ragini MMS Returns, XXX Uncensored and others are laced with nudity and cater to cheap carnal whims, and sadistic sexual pleasures are passed off in the blanket name of erotica. With huge subscriptions pouring in from people from all walks of life, violence, sex, carnage and vulgarity generate revenue on the OTT platforms.
The streaming platform Ullu, with web series in several languages, boasts huge viewership. Its popular series are Palang Thod Kirayedaar with give-away titles like Sazaa ya Mazaa, Bekaboo Dil and Aadha Adhura Pyaar, which are suggestive of those C-grade films of the ’70s screened in small, decrepit cinema halls. Mirzapur on Amazon Prime Video was a package deal of violence, gore and vulgarity a la The Game of Thrones. From bloodbath during marriage (akin to “Red Wedding” in the series) and hacking of private parts to illicit relationships, it had everything to rake in the moolah! Obviously, producer Ritesh Sidhwani was thrilled to witness Mirzapur Seasons 1 and 2 become global sensations with viewers eagerly looking forward to Mirzapur Season 3.
 
Easy accessibility
 
Increasing network, high-tech components and accessibility in the remotest areas of the country are other compelling contributions to increase viewership of these R-rated contents. Sexual themes that comprise immoral characters form the crux of these web series and films, pander to sensual fantasies. And to seize subscriptions from the length and breadth of the country, the series are available in regional languages too.
The casting for porn, revolving around just a day’s shoot in a rented bungalow on the outskirts of a city, a minimal staff and no story line or production values, is based on physical statistics of the girls. Produced by Hotshots and Kooku, such semi-porn acts focus on filling the coffers via subscription-based apps.
Requesting anonymity, a web series producer explains how well-recognised models/performers charge up to `2 lakh a day while aspirants working in low-budget web series with part nudity cost only `25,000 per day of the shoot. “It’s mainly for those on the look-out for lewdness and titillation in a story. At the end of the day, everyone from the producer, staff, actors and viewers in this space are happy!” says the producer.
 
Future of OTT contents
 
The future depends on the interpretation of the law by the Courts. However, Siddharth Chandrashekhar, believes that digital platforms have seen an exponential growth in the amount of revenue growth especially during the pandemic. “The choices being limitless, an obvious corollary is that there will always be audiences that want something akin to pornography,” he states.
Nivedita Basu, however, thinks there will be a lot of censorship on what can be shown on OTT. “Also, in the near future, there will be more restrictions on that kind of content can be shown. All platforms under Indian and international purview have come under the Broadcast Ministry. I won’t be surprised if there will be certification also given as to what content can be watched by whom,” says Nivedita as she signs off.
 
‘There’s a fine line between porn and erotica'
 
“While both the genres fall under the adult content category, the ‘level of skin show’ defines the respective categories. In erotica, the sensitive (private) body parts are not revealed but in porn, the discretion and the liberties lie with the filmmaker. If there’s a love-making scene, and the director is trying to communicate it, he may as well show it like a woman entering a bedroom, and cut the scene. So that’s erotica. So the object of what the director is trying to tell has been communicated to the audience. Also, his object of titillating the audience has been met. But porn is all about skin show and there aren’t any restrictions.”
 
— Shakeela, former soft-porn actress
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