Ranveer Singh seems to be the latest Bollywood celebrity facing the backlash of India's decency politics. In case you missed it, Singh was recently featured in a semi-nude photoshoot for Paper Magazine which quickly went viral and had many talking—for obvious reasons.
Paper Magazine is a huge international platform that has hosted the likes of some of the biggest celebrities around the world including the likes of Kim Kardashian and Rihanna. Having a Bollywood celebrity in Paper Mag’s latest issue shows just how big of a star Singh really is.
He is a trendsetter and has paved the way for many others to self-express in whatever way they like, and we certainly haven’t seen any other leading man in Bollywood bare it all on an international platform of this scale.
The shoot was accompanied by an article that discussed the versatility Singh brings to Bollywood and his unconventional choices that set him apart.
Ranveer Singh is recognized for his larger-than-life personality and care-free attitude and demeanour. He never seems bothered by the opinion of those around him, and his response to the backlash was reflective of this.
In the article, Singh stated “It’s so easy for me to be physically naked, but in some of my performances I’ve been damn fucking naked. You can see my fucking soul. How naked is that? That’s being actually naked. I can be naked in front of a thousand people, I don’t give a shit. It’s just that they get uncomfortable.”
Let’s be honest—I for one am not complaining at all about this shoot. It’s pure eye-candy mixed with art and combined with a reminder to just live your life.
However, this shoot recently caused an uproar throughout Indian media.
It was, and continues to be, a hot topic of conversation, with equal amounts of praise and negativity. Although that can be expected of almost anything that’s put out on the Internet, the most shocking part was that a simple photoshoot landed a formal FIR (First Information Report) to be put in motion with the Indian police.
Vogue India reported that an ‘FIR against the actor for four counts of non-bailable offences and a maximum of five years of punishment has been filed by one Lalit Tekchandani, the founder of NGO Shyam Mangaram Foundation, who claims to be acting on behalf of concerned parents who are worried about the influence that Singh may have on the country’s youth as well as offended women whose modesty has been insulted.”
It’s not the first time that Singh has had a brush with the law for seemingly foolish reasons.
Singh, along with his friend and co-star Arjun Kapoor, also received complaints that were later dismissed by the court in regards to indecent language used in a comedy roast. Singh definitely isn’t the only celebrity to have fallen victim to the politics surrounding decency in India. Back in 2009, Akshay Kumar and his wife Twinkle Khanna, were in trouble with the law after Khanna unbuttoned Kumar’s jeans during a fashion show he was a part of.
Twinkle later revealed on an episode of Koffee with Karan that she had to take the fall and had to pay 500 rupees to be bailed out on the charges against her.
The backward politics aren’t just limited to Bollywood either. Nearly 15 years ago, an arrest warrant was put out for Hollywood actor Richard Geere for publicly kissing Shilpa Shetty on the cheek! A court in Jaipur said the act "transgressed all limits of vulgarity". He had to submit a public apology and Shetty was roped in as well as a co-conspirator for “allowing: it to happen. The charges against Shetty were only dismissed in January 2022.
For most of us, the charges mentioned above seem completely ridiculous, but it’s clearly a common occurrence in India.
India has a long history of controlling the narrative around what is considered decent and respectable. We constantly see Indian media commenting on what is appropriate and criminalizing those who don’t follow their criteria. There’s a lot to consider about the gender dynamics of India as well. A Bollywood actress wearing a small bikini is objectified and ogled at, but a male counterpart wears a speedo and suddenly it’s not okay.
In my eyes, it seems that Indian decency politics, where the men hold the power, are used to further suppress women and perpetuate a culture where men are allowed to sexualize others, inflict harm, and exercise control without consequence.
For a country that has such a deep problem with sexual violence, it is appalling to see so much backlash over completely consensual acts while it sweeps the real problem under the rug. It calls into question the type of power that systems and governments have over the people of their country. In many cases, celebrities are being used as scapegoats and being punished for their bodily autonomy as a lesson for the rest of the population.
Adding criminal consequences to things like nudity, kissing and acts of flirtation leads to a huge conversation about sexual suppression and what is considered “good” in society. All the acts above were completely consensual, yet they’re being treated as heinous crimes. Where is this passion for action when it comes to the numerous cases of sexual violence that occur every day across the nation?
With this type of backlash occurring, things like dating, sex, love and public displays of affection become taboo and it reinforces that narrative of everyone needing to fit into a regressive expression of decency.
Hopefully the conversation around this sensational photoshoot helps push forward the notion of autonomy in India, instead of going in the opposite direction. Many already struggle to show up as themselves because of fear and stigma and we don’t need more added to that.
In the words of Ranveer Singh, “don’t give a shit” and be you.
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