Censor ! Censor !

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I reacted with shock and awe on reading about an initiative to spread the love of God—a 2006 calendar ” with 12 staged photos depicting erotic scenes from the Bible.”

“There’s a whole range of biblical scriptures simply bursting with eroticism,” said Stefan Wiest, the 32-year-old photographer who took the titillating pictures.

Not being an expert on the Bible, I cannot vouch for the above assertion.

But what bothers me is what if, in an age where people are shamelessly aping the West, we also did something similar to our epics ?

It’s not as if we don’t have the raw material.As an example, let me refer you to this. And also this. A racy read no doubt—something that even Human Digest (yes yes that publication that a lot of people have read but noone talks about—for those who have genuinely never heard of it think of it as a more exciting cousin of Reader’s Digest) would be proud to have on its sticky, worn-out, dog-collared pages.

But what if someone made a mega-epic based on the classics and intentionally focused upon the parts which BR Chopra and Ramanand Sagar glossed over with their bhajans and whole episodes devoted to baby Krishna playing with a ball?

What if we see on the video shelves– “Panchali does Pandavas” on the lines of “Debbie Does Dallas” ?

This possibility is reason enough to immediately edit the Mahabharata and make Draupadi monogamous.

Another example. Drona’s father sees the celestial apsaras clothless bathing in a river, has an “American Pie” moment and Drona is born inside a pot. Which is what Drona means—born in a pot.

Some people call this sure evidence that we had test-tube babies even then—–but I am somehow worried about the more salacious consequences. What if some filmmaker , someone who claims to worship the “female form” (or in other words, a dirty old man who likes to see girls in the nude) recreates this whole episode in a “Ram Teri Ganga Maili/Anubhav” type setting and passes it off on impressionable minds? That’s even worse than smoking “pot”.

So when I tell my grandkids the story of Drona’s birth I am just going to say that his mother found him in a temple. Or that a stork brought him in. I suggest you do the same.

The reason I am worried is because Hindi film people have been cannibalizing the adult bits of Mahabharata for years. Shakti Kapoor and Gulshan Grover have, in their movies, recreated the vastraharan scene so many times that I have lost count. Or maybe because I wasn’t counting while watching these scenes. In any case, the “Bhagwan ke liye mujhe chor do” line is an echo of what Drapuadi said in the crowded court—-of course the addition of “Bhagwan ke liye tujhe chor doon, to main kya prasad khayoonga” is just a monstrosity added by the moviemakers to drive home their point.

Having read the original Mahabharata translated into bengali, I was horrified at the scene where Jayadarata ogles Draupadi as she emerges from the river like an ancient-day Brigette Bardot and the explicitness Jayadrata uses to describe Draupadi would make even the worst street Romeo cringe. And this incident is virtually repeated with Kichaka in King Birat’s court.

As well as in the story of Nal and Damayanti, where a horny Rakshash gets bad ideas after seeing Damayanti in a rather skimpy one-cloth dress. Good thing that this part of the story was edited out in the 1945 movie “Nal Damayanti” with Prithviraj and Sobhana.

Which just goes to show that with good sense , as displayed by BR Chopra, the story can be conveyed without taking recourse to such vulgarities. I remember the scene where Mukesh Khanna..sorry Bhishma’s father Santanu consummates his marriage with Ganga or Kiran Juneja with the line :” Main abh ganga-snan karna chahta hoon”.

How pure.

Or the time when the rishi and his wife, who were mating as dear, was killed by Pandu for which as we all know a horrible curse came upon him. Thankfully BR Chopra showed the old sage couple dying as dear—-a less sensible director might have shown them morphing back to their human forms as they died—-that would be just so horrible as there is nothing as unpleasant in the world as displaying old people having sex.

Also when Pandu dies in a transport of passion with Madri because of the effect of the curse, all that BR Chopra shows is Pandu saying:” Tum ati sundar ho Madri” after which he obligingly drops dead on the floor. In the hands of a lesser director, this may have become a Basic Instinct like scene–ice pick and all.

Another problem is skepticism—people are just not willing to accept miracles any longer.

I mean what’s so bizarre about Kunti having a kid before her marriage from The Sun Lord and then 3 after her marriage from the Lord of Death, the Lord of the Air and the Lord of Lords? Its perfectly believable that Gods came down and magically impregnated her—–the alternative explanation that guys with the name of Surya, Dharma, Pavan and Indra stayed in her locality is just plain hokum.

Some people even make an anti-Bengali joke out of the birth of Pandoo. We all know that Vyas, a sage with rather poor body hygiene, came and impregnated the queens. One of the queens turned white or rather resisted the natural flow of the act of sexual congress and her son consequently was born weak.

The joke I heard in this context was that the queen being a Bong could not pronounce “V” (Bengalis say “Bajra” [thunder] rather than “Vajra” ) and when she said “Vyas Vyas” in order to encourage the swami, the sage heard “Baas Baas” (enough, enough) and so this caused the misunderstanding.

As Mr T would say:” I pity the fool”.

I hope you all now understand why the Mahabharata and the Ramayana need to be sanitized and rendered kid-safe. Though originally written for the noble purpose of entertaining, with the religious bits merely serving as moral justifications for rationalizing the guilty pleasure of enjoying what was essentially a gigantic, extremely-well-crafted, fast-paced novel whose scope encompassed all emotion known to man (including lust) , it now urgently needs to be morphed into something totally different.

Ever since a mosque came down and a bald man crisscrossed the country in a funnily decorated jeep, we have become aware of our Hindu heritage—a heritage we have been led to believe is intolerant, rigid and puritan and which can only be understood with the help of RSS men in khaki shorts.

The classics thus need to be modified in order to keep pace with this change or “jagaran”.

Tha’s why we need to take out all the fun, all the humanity and replace it with propriety and “morals”—where’s Sushma Swaraj when you need her?

No polyandry, no polygamy, no neighborhood uncles, no desperate housewives, no forced disrobings, no “lolitaaaaaaa”, no more pot abuse, no sensual descriptions and no more anti-Bong innuendo.

I mean it.

[Update: Go here to see the 21st century rewrite of Mahabharata (work in progress)—in its true tradition. Recommended reading. Hat tip: Humsafar ]

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36 thoughts on “Censor ! Censor !

  1. It seems you have made finding and documenting anti-Bong (or anti-Sourav and hence by extension anti-Bong) innuendo one of the goals of your blog (which has some very excellent articles on other subjects, btw).. but at far as jokes are concerned, even you would surely agree that Sardars can lay undisputed claim to being the No. 1 target. Bongs might only be a distant second, if indeed one can be clearly distinguished. Of course, for obvious reasons there wouldn’t be an anti-Sardar joke in a Mahabharat/Ramayana context.

  2. @Debashish:

    Just a second. Firstly the anti-Bong joke is purely a figment of my imagination—I made it up. If anything at all, this post makes fun of our attitude (mine included) to find anti-Bengalism in *everything*. Its a pity that you understood exactly the opposite.

    And frankly, the issue being talked about has nothing to do with regionalism.

    Which is why I am a little bit baffled by your comment.

    It seems I do need semantic tags to get my thoughts across clearly.

  3. And oh by the way there is a Sardar joke in the Ramayana context too—where a Hindu, Muslim and a Sardar argue as to what religion Hanuman was…the joke is possibly in Khushwant Singh’s joke book.

  4. Arre, Greatbongda! Exactly my sentiments. I have had this idea for a long long time, that the “culture” our morality gurus would have us practise, is not the original one. I mean, what u see around u is what u write in the story(ok forgot the phrase and hence had to make it up). And really, if the hindu culture could survive inspite of lot of threats for 3000 years, and is now going down the drain very fast and needs self-styled protectors, then maybe it should go down the drain!! but of course it would not, because it doesnt need those protectors in the first place. Now only if we could get that into their heads (sigh). ok this has started going on a tangent to your post.

  5. Great post. Shokal shokal besh hanshlam. The thing that always cracks me up about mahabharat is the name vicitravirya. Weird Sperm. Quite amazing.

    I think Mahabharat would make a great 2X movie if someone makes up his or her mind. Right from Santanu to the last character in the story is Bonking someone or the other.

    And the Baas joke had mein splits !

  6. The Baas joke was really good.

    But the other important thing I wanted to point out was the fact that there are so many things that have been toned down and sanitized for kids. Did you read the original Arabian Nights? I am sure many will go direct to magenta from pink if that was given out to the right people.

    The important thing is not to create another version of the Mahabharata, but to potray it aesthetically for the right audience. Well, the kind of ‘Draupadi does Pandavas’ may be a little far-fetched, but something on those lines will sure make most of us sit up and notice. 😉

  7. oh man you are great. simply great.
    I just remembered a discourse I attended about Ramayana where a boy asked this question that why Ravana kidnapped Sita when He was of the opinion that He himself is the greatest warrior and those two ‘vanvaasi’ can do nothing. he could have simply waged a small battle and got possesion of Sita. Even the Speaker couldn’t answer the question.
    Can you?
    😉

  8. @Puranjoy: Exactly. If there was not an inherent vitality to our epics then they would not have survived foreign invasions and cultural imperialism over the centuries. And this prudishness that has come into Hinduism in the last 50 years goes totally against the spirit of our religion and is a reaction to Christian-Muslim orthodoxy and ideals of morality.

    @Soham: Yes quite amazing…vichitravirja almost sounds like the moniker of a rapper.

    @Sudipta: When I was a kid, we read Upendrakishore’s classics for children which were suitably edited for young minds. As we became older, we moved onto Rajsekhar Basu’s translation where we understood what a multi-hued tory this one was.

    @4WD: Good. We are getting somewhere.

    @Dhananjay:


    Then Yudhishthira, filled with wrath, began to destroy thy ranks, in the sight, O sinless one, of the Pot-born (Drona) and of thy sons.

    Link

    Drona was the son of Bharadwaja. One day, when the Rishi Bharadwaja saw the Apsara Ghritachi rising from the river after her ablutions, his vitality emerged spontaneously from his body. He stored this in a pot (drona), and his son Drona was born from this pot. See [Maha:1.168].

    Link

    So Dhananjay, I stand by my assertion that Drona was born in a pot. I think, not sure, that it was Ashwathama who was born in a leaf.

    @Mobius: Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind—the demented mind comes up with these.

    @Ritzy: I wouldnt dare.

  9. Of course, the whole post was sarcasm, and obviously the subject itself has nothing to do with regionalism – it’s just that going by your past attention (far higher than what it deserves, from my experience as a Bengali) to this issue, I thought mentioning that joke had a double meaning. Anyway, if you made up that joke, that’s pretty good 🙂

  10. khub bhaalo likhechho! lore jao bangali. readership er certain percent toh misunderstand korbei – jaader readership ta huge taader jonno eta ekta boro number hoye jaye – tough to handle – popularity-r fols … enjoy! i agree with u on parts of it. its so weird when we, hindus of all people act sanctimonious and holier than though abt sex drugs and rock and roll 🙂

  11. Come on.. you are underestimating our B R Chopras and Ramanand Sagars. “mai.n ab ga.ngaa-snaan karanaa chaahata hoo.N”! What a stroke of genius! You don’t have to explain anything to your grandkids. Just show them Chopra’s Mahabharat. I just wish Dada Kondke had tried it.

  12. Verdict- the post is a bit incomplete. I am amazed that being a JU alumni you conveniently skipped the mention of the poem Mahayan, which supposedly originated from pot smoking JU engineering students. 🙂

    The last 2 lines were:
    “Kurukshetra juddho shesh sobh sodh bodh

    Khali mathe shudhu pore ache osonkho nirodh”

    This was a different post by the way.

    On an unrelated issue, Id like to ask you a question. I read a quote of a shiv sena MP (in S. Mehta’s fine book Maximum City)saying about Hussein painting Saraswati nude ” If he is really a liberal artist , he should paint the picture of Muhammad copulating with a pig.”

    If we temporarily divorce ourselves from the fact that it was a sena person making the comment, he has a point. I mean, if Hussein has his artistic right to draw Saraswati nude (which I think he has), then another artist should have the same freedom to draw Muhammad copulating with a pig. Right?

    Your thoughts?

  13. aaaa–nd, the master is back! you are tha SOOO brilliants, ornob, i am the not being expressings enough!

    seriously, that Vyas/Baas joke was sheer genius. and ‘ganga-snan karna chahta hoon’? do they not realise how bloody corny it sounds? incidentally, somewhat along similiar lines, have you read this?

  14. Great post greatbong!

    But I am not sure if Mahabharatha needs to be edited further for kids or so. I think of the beauties of Mahabharatha is its interpretations you can have at various time of your life.

    When I was a kid and I saw it on TV (and heard it @ school), my interpretation of the tale was nothing but “good and god triumphs in the end”.

    When I read it again in teen years, it was more about how truth, honesty and good virtue triumph all.

    When I re-read another intrepreation a few years back, I was completely blown away by it – This time I saw mahabharatha as a tale of politics, lust and power. Everyone including Krishna is just a mere politician working for their own benefit; Lust for power and Lust for women dictates both sides – Pandavas and Kauravas.

    I think thats the beauty of Mahabharatha that there is enough substance to appeal to every age group without the need to editing it or making it kid safe hehe.

    Great post!!

    Suyog

    PS: I did write a review on that book, which I must say is the BEST book I have read in my life period – check the review out here: http://suyogdeshpande.net/blog/2005/11/20/parva-avrap/

    Cheers.

  15. @Debashish: Thank you

    @Ritwik: If you are able to laugh at yourself then maybe you arent a chauvinist in the first place.

    @Prerona: Sex and drugs we Hindus have a noble tradition. But rock and roll?

    @Vinay: Yes I wish so too.

    @Humsafar: Thank you for pointing out that amazing blogpost. I hope the author is able to maintain the temp and write the entire Mahabharat in that vein.

    @Anthony: Yes Bhajohari Manna…definitely.

    @Anon: What Hussain does is needless hurting of people’s sentiments in order to gain publicity. Or to show disrespect and hatred towards Hinduism—like naming the lesbian lovers in Fire Sita and Radha. Not that I dont love lesbians.

    But what we are discussing here is stuff which is *already* in the Mahabharatas and not something that is being added on just for shock value.

    @yourfan2: Yes I have. Its worth many many readings.

    @Dhananjay: 🙂

    @Rimi: Glad to see you back. Yes I read your post but guess what I am really poorly read—have not read Pratchett or the other people you mentioned (used that time to watch Truckdriver Suraj) Feeling a deep sense of inferiority.

    @Supremus: It really is the greatest story I have ever read. I wish someone made an epic 3 part movie series out of it on the lines of LOTR…I mean someone really good with top notch actors.(ie not superstars but actors)

  16. The funniest post I have seen in awhile.

    By the way there is this question that has been bugging me for a long long time, If Kansa knew that his sister Devaki’s kid would kill him why did he put Devaki and Vasudeva in the same cell?????

  17. @Anil:
    1. Kangsa was stupid.
    OR
    2. Kangsa didnt know how things worked.
    OR
    3. Kangsa wanted to give fate a fair chance.
    OR
    4. Kangsa had a rather poor idea of Vasudeva’s abilities.

  18. This is by far one of your best bloags and true too.
    Drona’s son was born via sperm on a leaf that was carried by a bird to his wife.
    I remember reading that somewhere but not sure where.

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  20. “When I was a kid and I saw it on TV (and heard it @ school), my interpretation of the tale was nothing but “good and god triumphs in the end”.

    When I read it again in teen years, it was more about how truth, honesty and good virtue triumph all.

    When I re-read another intrepreation a few years back, I was completely blown away by it – This time I saw mahabharatha as a tale of politics, lust and power. Everyone including Krishna is just a mere politician working for their own benefit; Lust for power and Lust for women dictates both sides – Pandavas and Kauravas.

    I think thats the beauty of Mahabharatha that there is enough substance to appeal to every age group without the need to editing it or making it kid safe hehe”

    Well said! You left out the most important part of mahabharat, namely, the Gita.

    Without the Bhagawad Gita chapter, Mahabharat is, as you said, just an epic story about politics, power, and lust.

    After everything is said and done and understood and analysed, krishna is the proverbial cowherd, Arjuna, the proverbial calf who drinks from the Udder that represents the Vedas and Upanishads.

    How many post-modern scholors have the integrity to connect all the dots and present the gist in a mature way?
    That’s why we are left only with satires, fantasy tales or one-dimensional morality tales.

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