With dozens of magazine articles under its kitty, the web-comic ‘Savita Bhabhi’ is probably the face of new India’s liberal section now. It’s been called bold, funny and sometimes, erotic. But most articles have missed two vital points in the mythology of Bhabhi, or of Indian pornography in general — that the comic marks a departure from traditional approach to porn, and that the typecasting of the Bhabhi as a middle class woman is particularly not fitting.
This piece is not intended to lend support to moralists who believe Bhabhi’s portrayal is a “dent on the way a traditional Indian male considers family values”. Rather, the intention is to look at Bhabhi for what she is — a pornographic comic in the tradition of Japanese hentai, which is funny in bits and pieces, and could be India’s most famous sexual export
after the Kamasutra. Indeed, it is probably India’s first ‘sophisticated’ pornography; it marks a clear departure from the earlier trends in India, where pornographic magazines would skulk behind well-known movie magazines, or if one was lucky, a year-old edition of Playboy could be found in the second-hand bookshops.
Let’s look at Bhabhi herself. She is an example of the female daguerreotype we Indian males love to dream about. Yes, she is buxom. Yes, she is well-endowed. Yes, she has an hour-glass figure. No — she does not exist anywhere except on the web, or that eternal repository of knowledge, the mind.
Why is that such a problem? Pornography has always intended to be a medium of suspension of disbelief; indeed, it works on the idea of the unreachable — from the Debonair centre-spreads to Hustler’s honeys. Then why does that create issues at all?
For a couple of reasons. Firstly, the idea that it represents a modified version of repressed middle-class sexualities is unjustified. Repressed middle-class sexuality? That in itself is a label we ‘supposed-urban-liberals’ love to attach to those living in Tier II or Tier III towns. How do we know sexuality is repressed there? Because they still practise arranged marriage, or because women still wear salwar-kameez and don’t talk to boys too often?
The point being, Bhabhi cannot be classified as a middle-class representative, because she isn’t one. She is a city-bred, liberal and informed woman who knows the difference between lust and power, as in the recently concluded series, where she seduces a film-actor (who looks suspiciously like, ahem, ahem, the Biggy himself) to win a model contest. She is someone who is not afraid of peeping-toms (the lingerie salesman who views her changing inside the trial room) or of dacoits (in the present series — continuing that K-serial phenomenon with unknown characters from her past propping up here and there).
That brings us to another bone of contention. If it is indeed intended to be a representative of modern Indian sexuality, then how is it that additional props haven’t turned up in any of the love-making episodes so far? Where are the toys? Where is the kink in the love-making? It is common knowledge by now that there are indeed places in urban
India where toys and costumes can be picked up. Infact, a theory abounds that a room at the Bombay International Airport is filled with seizures of such kinds from vacations abroad. And why is it that so far, we have only seen the traditional methods of love-making in the series?
While Internet forums have filled up volumes post the series with images of one’s imagined ‘neighbourhood Bhabhi’, the series itself has begun to wind itself around like the soaps we all love to hate. It has begun to imagine itself as a serious comic series, and unfortunately, it falters on that. Why on earth would the creators want Bhabhi to entrap a dreaded gangster with what they call WMDs (weapons of ‘male’ destruction—no need to explain what they might be)?
Savita Bhabhi as a series instead marked a turning point of something else. What Bhabhi unintentionally did was spark off an interest in an unknown and unconventional idea called a web-comic, giving a boost to an art-form that was traditionally only recommended as a hard-copy. And that indeed, is the one idea we have to be grateful to Bhabhi about.