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Culture

Smut, naturally

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Can a girl be punished for raping boys, asks the catchline of Qatil Jawani. Along similar lines, Mukta Products' Gair Mard advertises : I like men only half my age because they are hot. And then there are tantalising titles like Meri Dhoti, Tera Ghagra and Tambu Mein Bamboo Ke Baad. Bawdy broads and raunchy men are not the stuff of art shows (no art reporter's job is that exciting!). But when an exhibition is titled Morning Show, one sort of expects it to be squalid, steamy and, of course, horribly fascinating. As India's money-spinning adult movie industry is for thousands of Indian men who queue up for the 10 am show at small theatres to watch big-time exposure.

Most of them are lured by the posters which deliver much more than they promise. There's not too much skin on show but the well-endowed women (size zero is an absolute no-no here) more than hint at the action packed between the reels. V Sunil, the executive creative director of Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), was bitten by the sleaze bug (we're talking about the posters) in 2001 when a friend handed him a whole bunch. He's now put up 30 from his considerable collection on display at W+K Exp, the advertising agency's gallery space in Delhi.

He's almost as proud as an archaeologist at having discovered these hidden gems of smut. "Bollywood film posters have become cult design objects but these are valuable in their own way. The visual language you see in these posters no longer exists today, " says Sunil, who has worked as an art director with a number of agencies, including Ogilvy and Mather, before his stint with W+K. The posters on display are 4x5ft prints and most have an amateurish air about them. "There was no Photoshop then so they were cut and paste jobs with handwritten titles, " he says, pointing to a poster titled Air Hostess Girls which features American actor Brooke Shields.

Afraid of scissorhand censors, producers came up with a neat dodge. They shot separate reels of steamy matter and intercut it with the movie being screened. So Hindi movies could be interspersed with Hollywood sleaze, East European soft-porn, or scenes from Kerala's thriving porn movie industry. One of the stars of the W+K show is Shakeela, a southern siren who was such a prolific and successful adult movie star that porn movies began to be called 'Shakeela films' after her.

One of the winning combinations in the Cgrade industry, points out Sunil, was sex and horror. Titles like Rakhail bani Chudail (Whore Becomes a Witch) mixed terror and titillation to perfection. But despite the huge audiences it drew, the C-grade industry - euphemistically called 'adult' - was covered as a backwater, not as the major industry it was. "Sex was a taboo subject in India and for many Indian men, who had to live in the joint family system, this was the only outlet for forbidden fantasies, " he says. Little wonder that the waiters serving wine and hors d'oeuvres at the show's opening looked mystified at why a rarefied audience of art buffs was gawking at the movies they snuck out to watch.


Morning Show will run till September 17 at W+K Exp, Sheikh Sarai, New Delhi

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