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Govt for toning down sexuality in movies, TV

delhi Updated: Apr 10, 2013 08:21 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
Zia Haq

Plopped in a chair in his fifth-floor office suite, India's information and broadcasting secretary Uday Kumar Varma signs off on a letter to the cabinet secretary, listing out plans to curb "negative portrayal" of women in movies, TV ads and soaps, after advice from top echelons, including the Prime Minister's Office.

Responding to a national outrage after a brutal rape in Delhi last year, the government has identified India's big entertainment world as the next battlefield.

For instance, Varma has advised the Central Board of Film Certification, India's film censor, and several industry-sponsored self-regulatory panels to "consider reviewing their existing guidelines on the portrayal of women".

Creative professionals could, however, see a stricter code as trampling on free speech, although information minister Manish Tewari has stressed self-regulation as the "golden mean". Moreover, consumers in bigger Indian cities have similar media consumption habits as those in the West, such as the UK, according to a global Deloitte study.

In Mumbai last month, the Broadcast Content Complaints Council, the entertainment television self-regulator, prodded assembly-line production houses to debate women characterization with Bollywood director Sudhir Mishra, whose latest film Inkar deals with sexual harassment. A lustful deodorant ad was recently withdrawn.

The ministry will also release short public advisory clips on "respecting women" for mandatory showing on some 852 private channels.

The link between Bollywood and India's increasing sexual offences is vague at best. "Indian cinema has portrayed rapists as demons who have been brought to justice by the heroes," film-maker Mahesh Bhatt had told HT in January. Yet, he said there was a case for moderation: "There is no denying that filmmakers have portrayed women as objects, but it's time to correct that."