Sitting in our drawing room, watching some Hindi movie in a Hindi channel – this has become a rare occurrence since every channel is drowning us with dubbed South Indian movies – and in the middle of the ads there comes a trailer of ‘Lust Stories’. Though my mother doesn’t really understand the meaning of the title, I get completely conscious to be present among my family members at that very moment. *How can I even hear such a word in their presence?*
And then I start to pray that my mother, a movie-buff, doesn’t ask me what the film is about. We just very recently normalized talking about love marriages and girlfriends, switching to fifth gear by talking about lust and sex, and that too about a woman’s sexual desires would make her force me to take a bath and rush to a temple to seek forgiveness from Lord Krishna, who himself is famous for his rasleelas. This is pretty much the scenario is most of the Indian families.
Though India isn’t a very Englishified country, there are some words that even illiterates understand, but we are not supposed to utter them even if we end up choking on those words: sex, lust, masturbation, orgasm, menstruation/periods, and so on. In such an India, ‘Bombay Talkies’ gang – Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar – released ‘Lust Stories’ narrating tales of four women exploring their carnal self. But this scandalous feeling has been associated with evil for so long that even educated youngsters today feel that it would dishonorable to mouth this word in front of their partners.
Understandably, the film is released on Netflix, because God may forbid what will ‘Lust Stories’ do to our Indian sanskar if it is released in theatres nationwide. I mean, some couldn’t handle an actress enacting a masturbation scene, just imagine what a full-blown sex scene would do to their pea-sized brains. Also, it is not their fault, we have been wired to refrain from any and all thoughts pertaining to sex and sexual desires but that is only doing more harm. Side note: Sex education in India is a big joke that will actually make you cry.
Though I’ll comfortably watch the whole movie on my laptop shielded with my cloak of privacy, I sweat, gasp and heave when the trailer of the same film plays on our TV screen in front of my family because I’m committing a sin by watching two human bodies touching each other in a way that no one should witness.
Of the four stories, one that would really strike a chord with Indian audiences is the short directed by Karan Johar. No, it isn’t about a rich girl and poor guy love story. Rather, it is set in a middle-class family where it is unabashedly and bizarrely believed that women’s sexual desires must and will subside once they give birth to children. It strips naked the patriarchal system in India where a woman’s job is to bear her man’s successors. That film is about a newly married couple, where the husband finishes off his job in five thrusts and lives under the notion that he satisfied his wife’s needs, but doesn’t bother to ask her what does she want.
One of the gems from the film is when the wife asks her husband if he has watched an adult film. The look on his face reveals the misogynist ideology prevailing in India that women should avert their eyes from anything ‘adult’. One thing that Indian men need to understand is women can and do watch porn.
It takes months for the wife to understand that her decision to turn to a vibrator for her own pleasure wasn’t a mistake as everyone made her believe. It also underlines the need for husband and wife to talk about their sexual likes and dislikes as openly as they discuss their favorite foods.
It is a high time that we understand and respect women’s desires as something as natural as trees emitting oxygen.