Sunday, January 30, 2011

Engaged and Charged

Recently, the film posters portraying the bare back of Kareena Kapoor jolted some sections of society. But it is not the first time aesthetic choices have been axed and pushed out of the frame due to cultural and/or political intervention. Since most of know about the MSU controversy, let us talk about another case where the difference in perception between nudity and nakedness (as John Berger beautifully explains in Ways of Seeing) creates a rift in the reception of the art work.

Engaged and Charged
Class assignment by Lissa C.

In 1995 Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman, were embroiled in a controversy that rocked the film and advertising industry. Inspired by Nastassja Kinski's famous poster (left), the advertisement that featured the Indian models in the nude with a python coiled around them and a pair of tuff shoes shook the people's sensibilities and a volley of litigation cases were thrust upon the two models. After a fourteen-year wait, Sapre and Soman were acquitted by a local court ruling after the witnesses turned hostile. But the long wait and charges of the obscenity case haunted them and changed their lives forever. Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman were bequeathed to each other and were established models. Sapre won the Miss India crown in 1992 and almost became Miss Universe, albeit for a faulty English and a politically incorrect answer, it is believed she would have won the crown. Milind Soman was popular on the ramps and had a large fan following. The controversy plunged Sapre into depression and broke their engagement. Their career plummeted as nobody was ready to accept them. There was threat to their lives as the Shiv Sena vilified them in public.

There are two prominent issues when you look at this controversy, one is the infringement to the right of expression and the second is the need to adapt western influences to the sensibility of the common denominator in India. The Tuff ad was ahead of its times in conceptualizing an ad with sexual undertones. Today, a lot of sexually explicit ads adorn the walls and hoardings of our cities. Access to internet, overtly westernized music videos and increased youth base have affected the attitude of young Indians and there is an increased tolerance and fascination for these ads. However, even today the Tuff ad remains avant-garde and ahead of its times.

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