Gujarat bans Bollywood 'obscenities'

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The Independent Online

Under new regulations, anyone foolhardy enough to display one of Bollywood's more risqué movie posters in the state of Gujarat risks two years in prison. The state government has ruled that the sight of a woman kissing a man is no longer acceptable. Nor the flash of a bare female midriff, or uncovered shoulders.

Under new regulations, anyone foolhardy enough to display one of Bollywood's more risqué movie posters in the state of Gujarat risks two years in prison. The state government has ruled that the sight of a woman kissing a man is no longer acceptable. Nor the flash of a bare female midriff, or uncovered shoulders.

The state will give new powers to the police to arrest anyone printing, publishing or displaying pictures that are deemed to be "obscene".

The trouble is the state government's idea of what constitutes obscenity is somewhat draconian. Announcing the new measures, the spokesman for the state government, I K Jadeja, appeared to cast Bollywood actresses and their shamelessly provocative beauty as a serious danger to Indian society.

He fulminated against pull-out movie supplements sold with some Indian newspapers, which tend to print rather tame photographs of actresses in mildly alluring poses. According to Mr Jadeja, they are loaded with "obscene pictures of actors, actresses and models", and "this must be discouraged, as the trend is not in keeping with Indian culture". Judging by the rhetoric from the state government, it appears that all manner of innocent posters and advertisements will be swept up under the new law.

Indian society is changing at breakneck speed, and often finds it difficult to plot a course between the permissive Western values of the new young consumer classes, and the highly conservative ideas of traditional Indian society. Gujarati society is highly religious, and the state government's edict will go down well in some quarters.

The head of the state government, Narendra Modi, is regarded by his critics as a shameless posturer, and the new law as a non-cause on which he hopes to ride back to the popularity he once enjoyed.

Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost power in May's elections for the federal government, and has been casting around for new popular causes ever since. But even within the BJP, Mr Modi is now seen as beyond the pale by many.

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