27.8.07

Here comes a girl looking like a lemon, hey baalu ……(from the film Prem Loka * kannada)


Akhila Vasan made sure I saw this film. Akhila works for an NGO called the FRHS and has been involved in primarily research studies with young people on gender, sexuality and popular media. Akhila has been part of Blank Noise since 2005/2006


She writes about Prema Loka, a film made in the late 80's:

Prema Loka was a huge hit and inspired many a real life love stories. It was perhaps the first time that an actress was ‘imported’ from the Bombay film industry who wore ‘bold dresses’ with a kind of casual nonchalance.

This was a time when there was a crucial change in mainstream ‘good and chaste’ heroine and ‘club- dancing’ vamp morphed into one in mainstream movies. The female lead now was both the vamp and the ‘good’ woman - she wriggled and writhed on the dance floor on some pretext while being the ideal ‘bahu’ or the wifely material on the other.

Prema Loka became popular for its several nearly explicit kissing scenes. However it is the songs that continue to hold sway over the public even today. With this film, ‘crazy star’ Ravichandran created a niche for himself as someone who made ‘sexy films’.

In this clip the heroine is introduced to the audience for the first time. And it is not surprising that she is reduced to several body parts- hips, lips, breasts….. the lyrics of the song is a description of these various body parts, comparing them to different things- vegetables, fruits - much like the food list here on the blog- a girl like nimbu, lips like tondehannu, breasts like balloon… legs like bale dindu (banana stem)… something that is to be consumed…. And that is what the camera does… titillate and tantalise them with close- up visuals of the woman’s breast, lips, waist and hips.

The men in the song say they are happy to give away things for free to the woman….. because they have already got their money’s worth of ‘free show’.

The song is replete with sexual innuendo…. The first line of the song goes somewhat like this:

Here comes a girl looking like a lemon, hey baalu ……

By ‘Baalu’ one is supposedly referring to one of the men there but the visual shows a man squeezing balloons and in Kannada the English word ‘ball’ is pronounced as ‘baalu’.

We showed this clip to a group of young college –going men and women in a peri- urban town. Girls were outraged that a girl could walk around a local market dressed like that. And they were quick to distance themselves from her and turn her into the ‘other’- she was the typical rich, spoilt girl from a place like Bangalore where such things are ‘common’… she was the kind who likes to attract boys’ attention…. With a bad reputation…. She was also a threat to girls like themselves….

Boys’ response also focussed on the girl and made her responsible for the kind of attention she was attracting in the clip:

‘What do you expect if you wear tundu batte (tattered clothes) like that?’

‘She wants boys to tease her. That is why she is dressed like that?’

Some even unabashedly shared what they felt like:

‘I feel like raping her with my eyes’



29 comments:

  1. varsha chandwani3:19 pm

    The girls to whom u guys showed the clip should have been asked that have they never been harassed when they are dressed 'decently'. The reaction of boys was rather predictable. Whenever guys tells me that a show of skin is asking for rape, My answer to them is that if they happen to see a mother breast feeding a child do they feel like groping her. They have no answer. The scene of a mother breast feeding is something very sacrosanct. They feel no urge because the woman is doing her duty. Whereas if she wears 'less' for no reason whatsoever then she is asking for it. But really, we can’t blame men. When women themselves feel that their body is just for the use of men and that they themselves have no claim over it, what can be done? We all women are conditioned to believe that our body is not ours to enjoy. So we must conceal or reveal depending on our lord and master's wishes. And anybody and everybody has God given right to decide our attire. He could be some relative, some roadside Romeo or some neighbour.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The scene of a mother breast feeding is something very sacrosanct.

    Let me play the Devil's Advocate here.

    This is what I call ascribing value to something when there exists none. Some men and most women would "like to believe" it is sacrosanct. But at the end of the day, they are breasts. Some conscientious men wouldn't look at a woman feeding her child. Others may not. I don't think anyone can sit as a moral judge and term these fellows as unscrupulous people. After all, they just lack self-control when they see a breast, albeit that of a woman feeding her baby. Might appear like cold logic, but that's what it is.

    And anybody and everybody has God given right to decide our attire. He could be some relative, some roadside Romeo or some neighbour.

    At least on this one thing, I guess, we are on the same boat. You know, I cannot wear sleeveless shirts and tees to my office, but my female colleagues do it a lot. When I wear the shirt with the top two buttons free, it is "indecent", but when a female colleague does it, it is (or should be) "acceptable".

    And yes, when I wear my pant and shirt such that my navel/undies are seen out, I am again being "indecent", but when girls do that, we are not supposed to even see them, leave alone speak about them!!

    I am just wondering, whose dressing is controlled more by the society - men's or women's?

    And I guess I will continue to wonder till I hit my grave!

    ReplyDelete
  3. are such movies simply a reflection of what society thinks, about a woman's body etc, or do they contribute to influencing and moulding peoples opinion about these issues?
    And so, should such scenes be censored?

    ReplyDelete
  4. And so, should such scenes be censored?

    IMHO, such scenes are rare these days (I don't watch too many movies). However, they were quite common in movies earlier, and I am sure, it has shaped the way men thought about women - that a girl wearing "modern" clothing is "seeking attention". As a matter of fact, even today, we guys do believe that some girls dress to kill (a.k.a. seek attention).

    What is different between a civilized man and a non-civilized man is the way in which he responds to a girl who he thinks is seeking attention. The movie here shows uncivilized behavior, which, I think was the norm in all the movies released in those days.

    Probably, in the modern movies, the response is more polished. But the aspect of the girl seeking attention by her dressing continues.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous4:53 pm

    I find this website and comments rather bizarre. Bizarre because it is so paradoxical in the light of Indian history. I am a history buff and I'll give y'all a good history lesson.

    Prior to the Muslim invasions, in many parts of ancient India, it was often common to see women wearing saris in the streets without any blouse and thus their breasts were often uncovered. In addition, you would also find dancers in the temples (the famous temple dancers of ancient India). Ancient India was a bastion of sexual promiscuity and liberalism. How do you think the erotic images in Kajuraho came into being? Kajuraho was reflective of the ancient Indian culture during the times of Asoka and before the Muslim invasions.

    After the Muslim invasions, the society became more conservative in response to the Muslim influence as well as due to other factors. But the Brits really gave a new meaning to conservatism. The eunuch Queen Victoria was so conservative that it was rumored that she didn't have sex for decades. And she imposed her brand British Wahhabi conservatism on England and the rest of the British Empire. Thus her reign was called the Victorian Age. The British often emasculated the sexually liberal cultural practices of the Indians and the Indians, having acquired an inferiority complex since the Rebellion of 1857, became more and more conservative in order to deflect the British criticism of their "savage", "unclean", and "dirty" cultural practices such as temple dancers, uncovered breasts under saris, sexual liberalism, polygamy, polyandry, homosexuality, etc. How the sub-culture of chakkas/hijras survived the British influence, we will never know. The Arya Samaj led this conservative transformation in the Indian society, thus doing the bidding of the eunuch Queen of England and turning Indian society a model of the Victorian Wahabbi conservatism.

    The end result is that today, it is considered anti-Indian to dress in sexually provocative Western clothes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being sexually liberal is a hallmark of ancient Indian culture and I think that if the Indian society at large threw off the Victorian yoke of conservatism, it would become re-discover its roots in a liberal and tolerant society that is the definition of true Indian culture. I often find it amusing when the Shiv Sena rails against St. Valentine's day, Western clothes, and sexually liberal mores as being against the Indian culture. If only they could realize the irony of supporting the policies of an eunuch 19th century English queen as well as the conservative Muslims!

    As for the epidemic of eve-teasing, it is nothing more than an expression of repressed heteroerotic fantasies of confused and possibly illiterate males with raging hormones who know nothing of their ancestors' glorious history in sophisticated erotica; they employ crude methods such as eve-teasing to seek release from the repressive influences of a conservative society. It is my strong belief that if every woman in the country was dressed in Indian clothes from the ancient times (the salwar kameez was unknown during the reign of Asoka), and the males understood the rules of a sexually liberal society, then there would not be any need for eve-teasing!

    ReplyDelete
  6. tariq2:58 pm

    “Prior to the Muslim invasions, in many parts of ancient India,”

    Firstly, India only came into existence after 1947,

    “expression of repressed heteroerotic fantasies of confused and possibly illiterate males with raging hormones”
    what does illiteracy have to do with ‘eve- teasing’? why do we feel it is more common for the perpetrators to be ‘uneducated’ men?
    What does our education teach us that might solve the problem of sexual harassment?

    “then there would not be any need for eve-teasing!”
    Implying that ‘eve-teasing’ is now a need? and it can be justified because of the context?

    ReplyDelete
  7. tariq3:05 pm

    @ ignoramus,
    "I am just wondering, whose dressing is controlled more by the society - men's or women's?"

    Is a man made to feel he asks for it if he is sexually harassed when dressed 'indecently'?

    also, when society tries regulates the way men dress, is it done with the intention to restrict their sexuality, or simply that shorts aren't appropriate in formal ofice atmosphere?
    But a woman is often made to feel she ought to dress "modestly".
    Is modesty such an important part of a man's life?

    ReplyDelete
  8. tariq3:07 pm

    "and the males understood the rules of a sexually liberal society"

    what are the rules of a sexually liberal society?

    Do you think men sexually harass women because they are "sexually repressed? or is it just another symptom of a patriarchal society?

    ReplyDelete
  9. 'Ancient India was a bastion of sexual promiscuity and liberalism.'
    Dispute this: eve-teasing is a liberal sexual practice.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have a problem with the binary that is being created in this site.
    Somehow ,sexually liberal is equated with progressive.
    Ancient India also had sages who fasted for days on end(no food,no sex) in the hope of spiritual rigour.
    They weren't regressive.They gave us Yoga.
    To be sexually inactive or active is a choice.For the Wahhabis or Queen Victoria or Akka Mahadevi who refused to be exploited in her own way.
    And Anonymous,as for ancient Indian Society,I would have fallen in line with your argument that the Muslims brought all the regression, but our ancient Indian society also burned its widows, married off children and discriminated against entire sections of itself in the name of caste.
    The world over, Muslim societies are being looked at as repressed because women veil themselves but its these same societies that also had kings with huge harems.
    So no one can claim a meaning on the past on the basis of just one viewpoint.

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Tariq

    You have completely missed the point.

    The point is simply this: Irrespective of what the reasons are, there are restrictions imposed on the dressing of both men and women, by the society.

    Also, there is no logical reason to accept one reason and reject the other. If you accept "inappropriateness" for men, you should accept "sexuality" for women. Else, reject both reasons, and pitch in for a society which lifts all kinds of restrictions on both men's and women's dressing. At least, I will appreciate you for your consistency.

    Else, don't cry hoarse about women's dressing being "restricted" by society.

    P.S: Times Life in Bangalore today carries an article of how fashion is taking a new turn, where girls go "mild" rather than "wild" these days. Obviously, some people have started feeling cloyed by unending exposure to skin in the celeb-world!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous1:16 pm

    In response to tariq's comments on my original posting:

    > Firstly, India only came into existence after 1947,

    I was referring to the Indian subcontinent in ancient times, not the Republic of India. There was no need to point out the obvious.

    > what does illiteracy have to do with ‘eve- teasing’?

    Higher literacy = higher maturity = lower incidence of eve-teasing.

    > why do we feel it is more common for the perpetrators to be ‘uneducated’ men?

    Because they're immature and are indifferent to whether they are labeled as immature or idiots. I would think that educated folks would not want to be called ignorant, immature, or other terms associated with people who engage in eve-teasing.

    Even in the U.S., there is eve-teasing going on but it is often practiced by construction workers and other low-skilled laborers who have secondary school level education or lower. My argument is that illiteracy is one of the major causal factors of eve-teasing.

    > What does our education teach us that might solve the problem of sexual harassment?

    If our education emphasizes humanities as expounded by Tagore, Kalidasa, Kabir, Sarojini Naidu, and others, then the males would be sufficiently enlightened to the extent that their respect for women would prevent them from engaging in explicit eve-teasing.

    > Implying that ‘eve-teasing’ is now a need? and it can be justified because of the context?

    I'm afraid I made a poor choice of words. I had not meant to imply that eve-teasing is a 'need'. Rather, I should have said,

    'there would not be any basis for eve-teasing'

    This would be consistent with my earlier argument that illiteracy and immaturity forms the basis of eve-teasing.


    > what are the rules of a sexually liberal society?

    That is a very good question. That is for the historians to find out. I would love to know how the ancient Indian society operated within the framework of the interaction between the two sexes without any of the alien Victorian and Muslim strictures

    > Do you think men sexually harass women because they are "sexually repressed? or is it just another symptom of a
    > patriarchal society?

    It would be the former. That is because the countries of Northern and Western Europe as well as North America have shown that even within a patriarchal society, the harassment of women is far less widespread than in the Indian subcontinent due to the more enlightened and liberal attitudes towards sexual relations. Indeed, during the filming of the popular U.S. reality TV show, "The Amazing Race" in India, the American female show participants often commented on the eve-teasing they experienced during the duration of the show, an experience that they have not experienced in their own country.

    -----------------------

    In response to screen sifar's comments on my original posting:

    > I have a problem with the binary that is being created in this site.
    > Somehow ,sexually liberal is equated with progressive.
    > Ancient India also had sages who fasted for days on end(no food,no sex) in the hope of spiritual rigour.
    > They weren't regressive.They gave us Yoga.

    You should not compare the voluntary celibacy of the ancient sages with the involuntary celibacy or strictures imposed on members of a society.

    > To be sexually inactive or active is a choice.

    Agreed. So if a woman wants to dress provocatively, the society should not comment on this choice, should not do anything about the choice, and simply should leave the woman alone. Just as the society does not say a word about the extreme celibacy of a sage and so the society should not say one word about the extreme promiscuity of a temple dancer.

    > For the Wahhabis or Queen Victoria or Akka Mahadevi who refused to be exploited in her own way.

    They may have refused to be exploited in their own way but they had absolutely no right to impose their extreme celibacy on the rest of the society. As you said, to be sexually inactive or active is a choice and it is an INDIVIDUAL choice.

    > And Anonymous,as for ancient Indian Society,I would have fallen in line with your argument that the Muslims
    > brought all the regression,

    I never argued that the Muslims alone brought all the regression. I believe they contributed to the regression to some extent but they were were actually a lot more liberal about the mores of the Indian society than the British (Akbar was a prime example of the live-and-let-live philosophy of the Sufi-influenced medieval Indian Muslims). It was not until the British came with their Victorian strictures that the Indian society started to become far more conservative.

    > but our ancient Indian society also burned its widows,

    The practice of sati/sutee was mostly limited to the Rajputs during the medieval times. I doubt that it was a widespread practiced (if it even existed) during the times of Asoka. This would be a good subject for historical research.

    > married off children

    > discriminated against entire sections of itself in the name of caste.

    Enforcement of caste was not widespread in Asoka's time. In fact, the enforcement of caste was mostly a creation of the British, as per the comment in Wikipedia:


    "Caste" became an important element of Indian politics after the British imperialists used "caste"-based classifications as the basis of classifying the colonized Indian population, especially the Hindus, in the population censuses of late 19th Century. This became more specific in the 1901 Census, because the Indian population, not being aware of what the Brahmins thought of them, by and large did not understand what was meant by "caste" and gave their occupation, religion, education, etc. as their "caste".[2]. This time the census enumerators insisted on slotting the population into the four varna categories, even if it meant a loose fit. Thus the British succeeded in melding the empirical reality of jatis (communities) with the Brahmin's theoretical construct of varna (categorization of occupations), as "caste"(inherited social status), causing the popular modern perception of Indian society having been "always" divided into the four "hereditary" "caste" groups from "time immemorial".

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm a bit surprised no one mentioned the girls crappy clothes, in the fashion conscious sense. Polka-dot? Come on!
    Other things aside it's a pretty revolting clip, cause of the idiotic guys. I'm not sure if it's a good or bad thing that I can't understand what they're saying. Also I'd appreciate it if someone could explain what the heck they mean by 'looking like a lemon'.

    To anyone who thinks that illiteracy is the only factor contributing to random harassment, there are guys rolling around in their cars, hooting and hollering and inviting random girls in. Still I back you up on there being a greater percentage of illiterate people doing it, which is not the same as saying all of them are pigs.

    Finally, regardless of what caused the change to conservatism, the ancient asian subcontinent (India to all the non-pedantic people) was way more awesome, way more civilized and also way more liberal than our current situation. People tend to forget that. Perhaps instead of calling anything less than total cover up, 'modern' dressing (a term I really dislike) they ought to call it ancient.

    @the ignoramus: Yeah I was annoyed by the same thing in the times life in my city, seems we get it a bit earlier. A true WTF moment.

    I just realised that my blogger nick can be a magnet for malice here....don't get all worked up, it's supposed to be ironic. As in, funny cause I'm *not* a savage ape.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have always noticed that South Indian movies i.e Tamil, Telugu .etc. have more sexual content and double meaning words than Bollywood movies.

    ReplyDelete
  15. screen sifar: where did you get that binary from?

    ReplyDelete
  16. sporadicblogger11:30 pm

    @Rupesh Mandal- referring to your comment about south indian films vs bollywood, have you seen Heyy Babyy?

    @The Ignoramus- you make pre-Muslim invasion India south like a paradise of sexual liberation. Did the Manusmriti not exist 'before the Muslims came'?
    And sorry, it is the biggest myth in the world that education eradicates sexually predatory behaviour.

    ReplyDelete
  17. @The Ignoramus- you make pre-Muslim invasion India south like a paradise of sexual liberation. Did the Manusmriti not exist 'before the Muslims came'?
    And sorry, it is the biggest myth in the world that education eradicates sexually predatory behaviour.


    I think you have addressed the wrong person.

    ReplyDelete
  18. sporadicblogger5:03 pm

    Sorry, that should have been addressed to the anonymous one.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Hemangini!
    where did I get that binary from?
    It comes from growing up between sexism and feminism.
    Sexism does'nt allow any reasonable articulation before the wedding night ,and feminism(mainstream) would urge you to masturbate.
    A lot of our energies are spent in trying to build sexual mores for ourselves, and I don't want to walk in here and feel like all that I've done needs to be redone.We all have ways of coping, coming clean, expressing our sexuality...and the nature of blogging combined with all the sexual pain that we women endure in our lives makes this a difficult therefore interesting domain.
    On my own blog, (and I write from a young Gujarati city) while some people might think of the sexual also as something funny there are others who would think it to be coquettish.
    But what has to be said, has to be said.I think that I'm trying to say that you cannot plot a graph that says slut,frigid,conservative,da da da...
    I'm being oblique.But I hope you understand?

    ReplyDelete
  20. screen sifar- feminism is a word or an idea that contains multiple meanings and interpretations. do elaborate yours so that one can understand.

    ReplyDelete
  21. i see nothing wrong with the way she's dressed. Am i missing something here?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hmm, thats a very very big one:)
    Tell you what, why don't you read some of what I've written on the blog(s).
    Feminism means coming here even if I don't have to, because I have to.
    It means taking aggression and throwing it back, and taking yourself seriously.
    From being premature to just born to ripened to wise, it beats me to have to acknowledge you but I just did.
    That's feminism.

    ReplyDelete
  23. anonymouse5:50 pm

    sporadicbloggler, but education _does_ fix harassment. Mere learning/schooling does not.

    I shall refer you to S. Clemens on that one.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Unfortunately, the people ogling at the actress are taporis (probably lower caste Hindus who don't exactly look and think {Thank God!} like Shashi Tharoor). I am sure the actress would be blushing in a sensuous scene if the eve-teaser was an educated, upper-class tall and handsome English speaking man. Whatever happened to all the Hindi and English songs which "objectify" women with much worse innuendo? Bloggers such as this are as much a reason for the hypocritical prudishness of Indians as are depraved unemployed youth (who are typically dark in complexion and probably from the poor/lower-middle class society). There are much bigger social and economic problems which demand urgent attention. The least that a feminist could do to help the country is by changing the subject of her blog. Unless there is a change in the general social and economic situation of the country, eve teasing and the anti-eve-teasing shrews will flourish.

    ReplyDelete
  25. "I am sure the actress would be blushing in a sensuous scene if the eve-teaser was an educated, upper-class tall and handsome English speaking man."

    That's an extremely offensive generalization. Whether or not he was good-looking or upper-class is not the issue; if a so-called "educated" and "English-speaking" man were to sexually harass(eve tease) me in the street, it would NOT be a compliment. Eve teasing is never a compliment to a victim of it, no matter who the perpetrator.

    ReplyDelete
  26. ok screen sifar. hope you sort out why you acknowledge the project...going by your statement above...it beats me too! thanks for sharing your definition and being a supporter/ visitor/ 'feminist'?

    ReplyDelete
  27. I never watched this movie.I will try to watch it in this weekend.Hope i will like it very much.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I watched this movie. It is an wonderful movie. I really liked it.

    ReplyDelete
  29. bn girl5:39 pm

    what about it ?

    ReplyDelete