The Domestic Censor

I think it was some time in the early 90’s. The song would begin to play on TV, in the then ubiquitous Doordarshan, with a rather cocky chorus of “kuk kuk kuk kuk…,” and my father would immediately rush to the knob on the side of the screen. To change channels. This happened always, without fail, when my brother and me were in front of the TV. And every time I would be disappointed at not being able to watch Madhuri’s thumkas and expressions. Even Nina Gupta’s, for that matter. But who could say a word against appa. Those were not movements for children to watch, or lyrics for kids to hear, he said. Poor him, the more he tried to shield his children from the trash the content in TV was increasingly becoming (in his eyes, and that, in the 90’s), the less he was able to withstand their onslaught. What with DD Metro coming into the picture, that flamboyant, colorful cousin of the dull and serious Doordarshan, our exposure to cheesy, saucy, raunchy songs from Bollywood and Kollywood only kept increasing.

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I remember the time when Criminal was released. 1995. The Superhit Muquablas and other countdown shows would play that lovely song “Tum Mile, Dil Khile”. Ah, how lusciously sensuous Nagarjuna and Manisha looked together, standing on a dock by a riverside, romancing into the setting sun. Alas! It was not for us to enjoy romance at that age. Whenever the song was aired, my father would jump into action. Now he had devised a new method. He would change the color settings of the TV so that it went completely black. So we could hear the song, for the lead singers had sung it so well (and probably he thought we were old enough to listen to it), but watching was prohibited. With Nagarjuna caressing Manisha with such sensuality, we certainly did not expect Appa to let us enjoy the song with him. Enjoy we did though, furtively watching it when he and mom were out for work.

As the quotient of sensuality and sleaze kept steadily increasing in Indian songs, my father eventually relented. We had begun watching “Oorvasi Oorvasi”, “Mukkala Muqabla”, “Kadhal Rojave”, all in front of him. No more hiding. Although, we were aware of his grumbles and mumbles behind us, we learned not to take them too much to heart. After all, he was a parent. And parents had their own fears. But we were also growing up, and we knew what we were doing.

It was at the turn of the century, when I was preparing for my board exams, that I got hooked on the MTV. And boy, the songs that they played! I instantly fell in love with a lot of boys there – from Backstreet, Boyzone, Ricky Martin, Savage Garden, Ronan Keating. And not to mention the girls – Britney, Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Madonna. My oh my! However, I wouldn’t dare watch some of these songs in front of my parents, yet. In fact, I wouldn’t dare watch any of them in front of them. I was supposed to be studying after returning from school, or during those study holidays. Yet my days were never complete without a 2 hour dose of MTV every day. My brother had become a huge cartoon fan by then, and would lap off Swat Cats, Ghostbusters and Dexter with great enthusiasm. He did not care much for the music, nor I for the cartoons (although, having to watch them day in and day out with the sibling made both of us eventually like both). We both had an arrangement. As soon as we returned from school, he would spend an hour with his cartoons. Then the remote would come to me, for my music. And then, just about half an hour before mom would return from office, we would tidy up, wash up, put on the lights, light the lamps in puja room and play some “good cd” in our player – like Vishnu Sahasranamam or Kanda Shashti Kavacham. And yes, without fail, put TV on Discovery Channel or Animal Planet before turning it off. If dad or mom decided to investigate what we had been watching and pressed on the ‘Last Channel’ button, they would be happy thinking their kids were such science buffs. Smart we were, eh!

As I entered college my interest in English music went stale. I did not get time to watch more MTV, and MTV too decided to take a route away from music, and I become quite enamored by the local music scene, thanks to my college gang. No, not classical or traditional Tamil music, but ‘local’ music, the ‘Machi, mamu’ kind. Tamil hero Vikram became my biggest favorite, and his songs, my anthem. Not to mention Suriya. By the time I started working, my attention had turned a bit backwards, to Illayaraja and SPB. A long list of favorites, both old and new, English, Hindi and Tamil, were my constant companions, to and from work, and even at the workplace. Appa had stopped his shielding act for good. He realized maybe, that it was no good, and instead started enjoying the songs and videos with me.

Now why have I recounted my ‘music loving history’ out of the blue? Its because, now “Blue hai pani pani…”. For the past 3-4 years, I had almost completely stopped watching song videos, for they had become either too sleazy or too local for my taste (largely, not all). And for the reason that with an infant, I hardly found time, and in the time I found, I chose to read or write or watch an English movie. So when Sid suddenly started singing Lungi danch, lungi danch, I was surprised and amused. Not shocked, yet. But shock has come, all too soon. My son is singing and dancing to Pani Pani, Gandi Baat, Battameez Dil, and the like. I didn’t bother much at first, but off late, he demands I show him the Pani Pani video on You Tube. And with all the women dancing with almost nothing on, I squirm and shift in my seat every time the song plays. I now realize how Appa must have felt. Still, I try to reason, we did turn out all right, so will the kid, won’t he? I don’t know the answer to that yet, and till the time I can help it, I will try distracting him with something else, every time he demands watching those bikini clad women waltzing on the beach. Or maybe, switch off the computer screen, a la Appa?

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Courtesy: Google Image Search

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21 comments on “The Domestic Censor

  1. Just agree with you word by word Yamini
    I remember the Hindi version of the Tamil song Rukmini Rukmini was released
    Even my dad would jump to get hold of the remote…
    And we(me m my brother) would suppress our giggles and exchange spurtive glances
    And see now our kids dance to Gandi baat
    Everything has become explicit,even love
    U made me nostalgic again
    Loved your post immensely

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  2. We had a wonderful Weston TV which required us to switch on and off the balcony light, so we only got to watch TV at night with Mom. She being a teacher was home with us in the afternoons and so we only got to listen to songs on the stereo of FM. Every time the box played ‘Aaja aaja give me a kiss’ from the movie Love, my Mom would start cursing everyone from the lyricist, to the singer, to the director/producer and us. And I would be like, ‘why is she over-reacting?’. Now when Lil Love sings, ‘Blue eyes hypnotize teri karti hai menu’, my heart aches for a few good seconds and then I remember and realize why Mom reacted that way. 🙂 Lots of memories got refreshed with this post of yours. 🙂

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    • Rekha, my son goes on, “…get on the beach, photo meri kheench…” and I can’t help wondering about the kind of narcissist attitude some of these songs display today. But then, the thing is, no matter how much we try, we will not be able to prevent the exposure these kids will get from the outside world. Just hoping that they will imbibe the right values from us and be able to discriminate between what is good and what is not.

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  3. First of all the post made me nostalgic about my childhood days wrt watching cartoons ur brother watched. But I used to put animal planet in alt, when I knew that my cartoon times extended to my homework slot, which saved many a times from my mom.
    And for the content on tv, when the movie BOYS released, I was restrictd by my parents cos of the movie’s story.
    But today the content is too much in to our lives. When u turn on tv, small kids who are not more than seven years start to dance for shiela ki jawani. The point is even few parents are actually interested in that. They are using the kids to get money n fame.
    The obscenity, which was termed that way in the past, now became part n parcel of one’s life. How much we control it, still the kids get access to it!!!..

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    • Ah, Boys! Don’t even ask me that. The thing is, at the tender age of 3-4, the children neither understand the lyrics nor mean them, but somewhere, the images and the words get imprinted into their minds. They get the feeling that it is not something wrong, and the line between what is wrong and what’s not only keeps getting pushed further.

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  4. Hmmm… feelings of parents! curiosity of kids of that gen. this gen. all expressed well in one post good one.
    But what can stop this cultural shift? or are we willing to stop the change? is the question. We all witnessed the change happening from the past till now and it will go on. Our indian society draws inspiration from the west and tries to imitate and get developed in their direction. North India (bollywood for instance) moves fast, whereas the rest of India follows gradually but surely in the same direction.
    As you explained with every micro instances of how it happened in Indian homes, Films and Entertainment media have been just a part of the entire picture. See the family functions, birthday celebrations, on everything we can see the change. Mostly the change we try to criticize, youth loves it because it’s fun. Fun is the mere need of the hour, this wrong notion is well fuelled by the media.
    It’s a hard task for this generation of parents to imbibe right values amid of such changing faced paced culture. A lot of factors will act as a hurdle. To put it simple, we need to be wise to decide how the future has to be and let the children know why we want them to be righteous, rather just preach them to be righteous. Just because we instruct, they are not going to follow, so do most of us.
    Your words given a lot of insights for me. I will continue this as a separate article on my blog. Of course with courtesy to you

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  5. Great one, Yamini! My son is almost 14 and he is into Vsauce, etc, on YouTube (y’know, Vsauce, the guy who talks about science and the way things work). Haven’t watched DD in quite a while. 🙂

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  6. Really? I think he should talk to my hubby. They will make a great team, for the hubby too likes watching such stuff. His favorites are some Richard Feynman videos on how should one teach science to children, and he just stops short of stalking NASA. And DD, I heard it still exists… somewhere.

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  7. Such a weird thing isn’t it? Life always comes a full circle, so to speak. I’m not sure if this is something I should confess on a public forum, but I’ve had my share of inquisitiveness and have hidden and watched many a scene. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But yes, the lyrics these days scare me. And I guess, it scares me even more because the kids sing them and dance to them without actually knowing the meaning. Every “item” number that is popular today, has got sexual innuendoes in them, and I’m not restricting them to Hindi alone. Well, I guess we can try to be as protective as we can 🙂 Great post Yamini !

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    • Thanks Sid. I was really beginning to miss your comment on this one 🙂 . Well, all of us have ‘learnt life’ a little this way, but as a parent, the perspective completely changes. Despite the knowledge that you can only shield them so much, and they will eventually get past all your measures… sigh!

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  8. ahh yamini..just luved reading this post..very well written..it tuk me back to my days n the days now spent raising up my toddler…she has started luving and singing “mein teinu samjhava ki” and i really wonder how much is she understanding.. and what is it in the video that is attracting her so much..

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