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No sex, please… when moral police target a Netflix show

Call them critics or chronically conscientious, vigilantes are ever aware of their duty to mankind. And the latest to come under their scanner is the Netflix show Bombay Begums.

March 20, 2021 / 09:26 AM IST
Bombay Begums  (Image: Netflix)

Bombay Begums (Image: Netflix)

The good thing about the moral police is not that they are self-appointed or come free of charge, but that they get a positive high from what they do. A certain psyche is required for this. A good vigilante is of course born, his DNA made up of small magnifying glasses. Upon the cutting of the umbilical cord, he crawls forth on his fours sniffing along suspicious trails. But a better vigilante is built by hand, his own hands; he is a self-made censor with no patience for formal training or a string of degrees. He takes matters into his own hands, and is generally a man who revels in doing the right thing at the right time.

You see them check for dust along the armchairs they sit on. In the public vehicles they happen to travel, they freely dispense wisdom. Their dislikes outnumber their likes. Striking when bad, bad things happen, antenna always up and quivering. This ownership of earth, with property deeds in their pockets, enables them to set forth with a confident step. In their land, no wrong can happen, not on their watch. This burden of the whole world they carry on their shoulders for us willingly, but more importantly, unasked. Volunteers who put up their hands to do their all for just causes and then set out to find the just causes.

Call them critics or chronically conscientious, they are ever aware of their duty to mankind. They will separate kissing couples by bare hand if necessary, even lurking in dark parks and dim-lit parking lots for this. They will watch all content on TV and screen for the rest of us, so they can get up and press pause. Many movies and television serials have been sued or banned following this hyper alertness on their part.

The latest to come under a scanner is the Netflix show Bombay Begums. Which is a look at women from different strata of society – a bank CEO to a sex worker – and their lives, so separate and yet unified at the end. The series does have many missteps in its storyline, acting chops, dialogues, and there are just too many unaesthetic shots of physical intimacy, but those are personal gripes any viewer is bound to have. The sheer kindness on the part of those who are seeking to shut this series down have only the younger generation in mind, a demographic with a mind of its own.

The plot actually moves its arc from that particular ‘straying’ to a positive spark in the end, when the adolescent ‘gone bad’ clasps her stepmother’s hand. A dose of realism has been injected, it is true, with the showing of drug use and alcohol drinking by young adults. In the Spanish Elite and Swedish Quicksand, we see this at a more rampant level, but the connect of these realities to the reasons the series were made is obvious.

Which is better – to know what is going on in teenage circles and be prepared for the worst? Or to switch off TV sets just so we sleep better?
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.
first published: Mar 20, 2021 09:26 am

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