Most people who have seen American comedian Louis CK's stand-up comedy on YouTube, or watched his TV series, Louie, will find it utterly absurd and ridiculous to find him on Indian telly when almost every other word is beeped out, and the scenes censored. (It isn't entirely surprising either, considering the word 'fuck', 'asshole' and 'balls' is used intermittently in the half-hour show.) The premise of the series is pitch black comedy: it is based on an overweight, balding, divorced, 40-something American with two pre-teen daughters going through a mid-life crisis. Louis plays a fictionalised version of himself as a stand-up comic by night at a bar in Manhattan, and openly muses on sex, existentialism and day-to-day life on stage - that's when he comes most alive. It only makes me wonder why anyone would bother to air such a show here in India when the audience is so conspicuously not up for risqué language and content?
It is not just a show like Louie, which is an exception, but Californication too, that has been on for some while now, on one of the entertainment channels. It stars David Duchovny from the iconic X-Files, who plays a troubled writer living in Los Angeles from New York City, still very much in love with his ex-girlfriend and daughter. But his life in California is torn to shreds by the over indulgence of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll the city has to offer. The show too gets sucked dry to the bone; offers the buzz you get from sipping Tang from a whiskey flask.
Californication is not shy of making bold statements; in the very opening scene of the first season, the protagonist, Hank Moody has a dream in which he goes to church for a one-on-one with God, when he is offered a blow job by a nun. While the show can be viewed as blasphemous, pornographic, and an outrageous litany of immorality and perversity, it in its own right makes a compelling plea for freedom of expression, and is open for scrutiny and criticism. But by showing a heavily edited and toned-down version of the show, stripped of its very core prurient nature, you leave the viewers willy-nilly.
Same goes for the animated sitcom show South Park, known for courting controversies such as attempting a parody to depict Prophet Muhammad in the past. The show aired its first episode some three years ago in India, and has run 16 seasons in the US. It is the most cursed, insincere and politically incorrect show I've ever seen in my life, featuring a bunch of foul-mouthed schoolchildren in a fictional town, but what's the fun in watching it when you can't make a single sense of what anyone is saying with all those beeps?
Someone needs to step up and take a call right now, either block these god damn TV series for good, or show it as it is with prior elaborate warning. Otherwise, people get really curious, and want to get to the real stuff, and then they hit the download button on illegal torrent websites to watch shows such as The Game of Thrones.
But who gives a fig about that, right?
Most people who watch television - I stopped a long time ago - find blatant blanket censorship counter-productive in shows and films, and news channels outright mind-numbing, offensive and insulting these days. The other day a friend who is an editor of one of the top global fashion magazines tweeted about the incredulity of showing The Dirty Picture - a revolutionary Bollywood film inspired by the life of smut South Indian actress Silk Smitha, which released last year - and courted controversy before making a debut on television - by blurring the bosom of lead actress Vidya Balan. Think about it, he asked, do kids really not know where breasts on women are? But that's not all, even words like ass, shit and sex are not spared on TV.
It really startles me to wonder what pedigree these morons are, who believe they are doing society a favour by censoring its programming so haphazardly and arbitrarily, when the younger generation today has such easy access and exposure to porn, corruption and foul language, and is coming to terms with it far more complacently than even my generation (I am 26).
Our repeated attempts to also advocate conservatism not only shows how deeply insecure our culture has become of taboo subjects, but how uncomfortable we get in our own skins when confronted with love and sex. Don't we know that by closing our eyes, ears and mouth, bad and impure stuff is not driven away? It unfortunately only makes us more vulnerable targets when it comes back to haunt us with reinvigorated zeal. In turn, we have to challenge and revolt against this regressive tide of logic. If we don't, the next generation will hate us for being the insipid bastards that we already are.
Also, if we are to bite the proverbial apple to follow the tempting influence of the West, as we do so anyway, to broach modern sensibilities and lifestyles, let us at least acknowledge and discern its dual attitude and morality towards freedom, creativity and expression. By turning our back to it, we are only coming across as the bigger idiots.