Posted: 04 June 2015 at 11:57pm | IP Logged
No Sex in the City - the crisis of consummation in Indian TV
The other day as I flipped channels and cajoled my brain to tune out I realised that the lead couple on Star Plus show Yeh Hain Mohabbatein hadn't made love in 18 months. No, it isn't a spell in the desserts of intimacy. THEY HAVE NEVER HAD SEX.
There I said it, I used the dirtiest three letter word we know. The subject of public shame and private voyeurism. But Raman and Ishita's growing desperation to get some action, got me thinking about Indian television's crisis of consummation. To get or not to get laid, that is the burning question discussed in great detail by producers, writers, and creative directors. We sit like sadistic puppeteers making sure the characters we create are left turned on and waiting. If they can do it, then when do they do it? How long can we keep the audience engaged hoping to see the lead pair canoodling? More importantly what if the wafer thin plot crumbles once they are done with what should not even be a sub plot?
Consummation, as we rather formally refer to it, is a big tent pole in the show's life story. We write build up episodes, cut promos, have meetings and then finally when the characters can barely keep their clothes on anymore, we let them get naughty. Well as naughty as they can get while keeping their halo of nobility on. Also, this may be the first and last time we see the couple actually acknowledging that they want to have sex and are capable of acting like mortals with needs.
But sarcasm apart, I have yet to see a show where the protagonists have a regular healthy sex life. Or a couple who discuss intimacy issues, or address why they don't feel physically attracted to each other. We still treat sex as the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow instead of a perfectly normal act that we have been doing since we were apes. Quite ironical indeed. The sex lives of characters on television is inversely proportional to the Indian population. If people really took so long to get it on, the government could easily a couple of hundred crores less on family planning measures.
So then what is it about sex and the Indian audience?
Don't get me wrong, I am all for romance and taking things slowly. I love cloying, sappy love stories with lots of dramatic music and soulmates finding each other. But what's annoys me is our insistence on making a virtue out of abstinence. It's almost as if having sex makes our characters more base, more human and less admirable. Perhaps it stems from the general taboo surrounding sex and the fact that most households don't acknowledge it as normal and necessary with their children. We paint it as something wrong and dirty, an act that good boys and girls don't do, till they are married after which they are supposed to produce children immediately.
Perhaps it serves to ennoble our protagonists, more specifically the female characters. Not acting like a normal person with hormones, adds to her deification and takes her one step further to sainthood. How else does a girl next door become the next thing to awesome? I have never seen a woman express her sexuality on television. Except maybe a vamp in a sleeveless blouse who is honest about the fact that she desires a man in completely non-platonic way.
I attended an interesting discussion once where couples on TV were liked to a holy trinity of mythological pairs. The theory was that all love stories are ultimately inspired by either Ram Sita, the ideal couple (what's ideal about being forced to be a single mom and then walking out on your husband with trust issues is beyond me), Krishna-Radha's unrequited love, and Shiv-Parvati, a marriage of equals. If this is true then perhaps abstinence becoming a virtue also finds its origins from mythology. Whenever they had to be ennobled or cleansed in some way, or heroes became celibate. No one asked their wives what they felt about it of course. Breaking a vow of celibacy was considered a big deal, and sometimes even punished. Is our almost subconscious reference to mythology causing our characters problems in the sack?
Or is it our vilification of sex that is causing this crisis of consummation?
The reasons maybe many, serious and psychological or as simple as using a done to death narrative device that helps elongate the show past its logical conclusion. Either way, looking at the growing spells of no action, it seems like it will be a while before this crisis blows over. (No puns intended)