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Reel OR Real


First published on The CSR Journal

Since the time lock-down started, the content consumption on digital media has soared to new heights. Many interesting shows and movies got released on the OTT platform to cash in on this phenomenon. One such Indian show that got a lot of positive reviews was also referred to as “unnecessarily dark” by some. A dark show at a depressing time, they said. Personally I loved the brilliant storytelling that seamlessly covered most major issues ailing our society today without any sugar coating.

I would like to discuss some aspects of what really made this show dark in the context of the reality of the world that I have experienced. Being a senior marketing professional, living in a metro who consistently practices her freedom of expression, one can safely assume that my world view is strongly tainted with privileges that I enjoy. In spite of that, I cannot say that the “objectionable” parts of the show were far from reality.

1. Strong language 

Some people are commenting that to make content sell, the show crew takes the easy route of generously sprinkling heavy dose of abusive language in the content. Firstly the show is rated appropriately (for Adults) as per the content and secondly I am jealous of people who heard this kind of language for the first time in such shows/movies. If it is an accepted fact that professionals occupying corner cabins, donning expensive formal attires can casually use foul language, in Hindi or English, to express disappointment of missed sales targets then what leads us to believe that un-educated criminals in interiors of our country use refined language? Such display of dismay using insults to women, mother and sister to be specific, doesn’t raise much havoc in the best of corporate environments. In fact, to some this language even qualifies as a means of bonding with fellow colleagues. On the other hand, when the intensity of such language is used in a realistic content piece we term it to be a manipulative creative tool.

Let us take offence to foul language irrespective of where it is used and irrespective of our gender. The language in which the abuse is hurled doesn’t change its intended purpose of insult so let us all be the “loser” or the “uptight” person in the room who has zero-tolerance towards obscene language. There is absolutely nothing cool about being ok with it.

2. Vulgarity

Whether we want to accept it or not, data indicates that child rapes are increasing at an alarming rate. Every fourth victim of rape in India is underage but when the show depicts the same it becomes un-palatable.

We also know that when it comes to the issue of rapes, what is being reported is hardly the tip of the iceberg. Additionally, acts of molestation almost always go unreported. While these facts themselves must disturb us enough to be unsettled, what is more, perturbing is how we react as a society to instances of molestation.

Early this year, in a remote location of Uttar Pradesh, a girl from my extended team stepped out for an afternoon tea alone. Being born and brought up in Mumbai she never expected what she was going to experience. A man masturbated in front of her in broad daylight while she was walking on the road. This is the ugly face of the society we live in. What happened after that is further embarrassing and intriguing. My immediate team made a rule that women from the extended teams will not travel for any events that are held at such interior locations. They were also planning to send the girl a bouquet as a sign of moral support. Thankfully my team thought of updating me of their plans before rolling it out. When we had this chat, I was travelling in another interior part of Hindi Heartland with a male co-worker who somehow was supposed to ensure my security given his chromosome combination. This state of affairs must be embarrassing for us as a society but we instead take it as a norm.

Coming back to the previous incident, post our chat everyone agreed that stopping a particular nature of work for women is not really the solution since the issue is not with her. Instead, we tweaked the directives a bit and said that in such areas women will not step out without the company of 2-3 males colleagues. A suboptimal solution indeed. Secondly, I also talked to the team out of sending her the bouquet since she was not the one who is sick and needs support, the mentality of the society is.

I have said this in my book We-Men@Work and I will say it again. I am yet to meet any woman with whom I share a close bond and who has not been sexually abused in one way or the other. It might be while growing up or in public transport or at the office, but they have all experienced the trauma.

Once again being intolerant to immoral acts is a good thing but I just hope that we showcase more intolerance to what is happening in our society and channel our disgust towards the perpetrator rather than the victim. The content that disturbs us is simply reflecting what is all around us.

3. Violence

I need not write much about violence I guess. However cushioned our lives are and whatever is the level of protective upbringing we were fortunate to have, we can’t just bury our heads in the sand and pretend that violence is overrated. In fact, our evolution and history is pivoted on extreme violence. Unfortunately, violence is an integral part of the human race in one form or the other.

In no way am I advocating strong language, vulgarity or violence. Neither was the show glorifying these aspects of society. What bothers me is that our tolerance level when things happen to us over a long period of time in disconnected situations is far higher as compared to when we watch it in a concise story format.

Content either presents what all is wrong in the society to shake us up from our cozy positions or it unwittingly encourages the wrong acts and glorifies it. The later format of the content is something we must be extremely vigilant about.

While a blockbuster movie last year with apparently stellar performances was discussed at length for the way it glorified the protagonist in spite of his obvious anti-social nature I would like to discuss a small example of recent times. A prestigious and influential brand recently gifted Indian women with a superhero cape during the lockdown. Though this glamorous cape is extremely alluring, simply put it is a trap. In the Work from Home scenario, “she is doing it all” is a sad reality in some of the households but then we must all realise that this fact is not worth celebrating. It is easy to confuse the absence of choice for heroism and tempting to glorify the frustrating reality of our society. Invisible pressure of doing it all (even when we have a choice to ensure that everyone does something instead) will only lead to early burnouts. Hence such content nudges definitely deserve our vehement resistance.

Thus while we increase our appetite for content consumption, let us consciously decrease our tolerance level for all that is unfair in real society. If we play our part right in the society, where it actually matters, some generation in future will definitely enjoy “clean” content that we dream of today.

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Sanchita Ganguly

Sanchita has more than 15 years of experience as a marketing professional across leading brands like Asian Paints & UltraTech Cement. She is an active advocate of Gender Neutrality & is passionate to expedite the same at Indian work places.


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