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Godmen, Pornography and Truth on Indian Reality Shows
sach ka saamna set.jpg

Can you face the truth? This is what an Indian television show based on America’s The Moment of Truth seems to ask its guests and, vicariously, its participants. Sach ka Saamna has already landed in trouble because people are confessing about their sex lives, their marital discords, their misdemeanours. The Indian courts have suddenly becoming liberal and have not permitted any action against the show.

That has not stopped the ever-looming godmen from jumping into the fray. Swami Ramdev who has models and film stars to grace many of his public yoga meetings and appears on music shows as a judge (!) has declared, “By giving the impression that promiscuous behaviour and infidelity was common, such programmes are promoting these tendencies. In reality, a majority of the people of our country are not the kind that appear on the show.”

A majority of the people in our country would not appear on such shows because of several factors – the primary one being that we are fed to believe that every act is sinful to be committed in hiding. I am not suggesting that coming out is the best thing. In fact, these are highly personal and private matters, but they are not matters of public morality.

Our films and TV soaps show multiple marriages, adultery, promiscuity, dowry demands, abuse – physical and mental, and our newspapers and news channels carry such reports and follow up with tongue-hanging-out discussions. Do people go and emulate these?

I have watched a few of the episodes of the reality show and many of the participants are working people. It is interesting to see women openly admit that they do believe they are better qualified and successful than their spouses with the spouse being present on the show. It is heartening to see a woman who is not in the glossies openly say that she is responsible for what she has done. Most of the participants have confessed to blunders on their part; very few have blamed others. And the polygraph tests have confirmed it. Again, we are dealing with an instrument that checks how the body and mind are responding to a query. It may not be completely foolproof, but on one occasion when a woman’s truth was shown up as wrong she said that she had in fact lied. She is not a celebrity and I do not even recall her name. The men too have come out with their truths along similar lines.

Is this exhibitionism? Are they here for publicity? Possible. We do live in a world where reality shows and reality seem to have a veneer of fiction.

Swami Ramdev Swami Ramdevtoo thrives on such reality and such eyeball grabbing ruses. As do many religious figures. Their religiosity and high moral ground needs a bit of public levitation.

There was a news report today about how a granthi (priest) in a (Sikh temple) was caught watching clips of a porn film on his mobile phone that was hidden under the table on which he had kept the scripture.

He has been removed and a case filed against him. From now on, no priest would be allowed to carry cellphones into the temple. Isn’t this merely a superficial remedy? What do the authorities find wrong – a holy person watching pornography, or doing it on the sly, or keeping it alongside the scriptures? If it is the second, then he would watch it elsewhere and must have been doing it for a while. He may not be the only one. If it is the last, then lesser mortals may be doing similar things and no one is to know. Now, we come to the first, should priests be watching pornography?

It is possible for the human mind to fantasise and strip fully clothed people. Is that porn? It is possible for devotees to find some religious person attractive as he exposes his body. Is that porn? I would like to hear what these media-propped priests have to say about these issues. One rarely hears them comment about the several sexual crimes that take place in our country on a daily basis, especially in rural areas and the slums. Does that not bother them?

As for the show, if a woman says she would sleep with a man if her husband would not come to know about it, I do not reckon people will follow her personal choice. However, if a tantrik or shaman tells millions in India that sacrificing babies will make men more potent or that sending their wives to sleep with them would get their families male heirs, they will follow such advice.

So, which reality is having a negative effect?

17 Comment count
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since the dawn of time

since the dawn of time, a sin is a sin.Hiding it is the evidence that we still have some morality, saying or doing it in public is what we call: arrogance.
I do not like arrogance.

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Hammoudi, are you sure about

Hammoudi, are you sure about this?

"a sin is a sin. Hiding it is the evidence that we still have some morality, saying or doing it in public is what we call: arrogance."

If a sin is a sin, then will the mere hiding of it constitute morality? Must such a sin exist at all? Is it okay to lie but just don't get caught doing it? In this one aspect, I'd root for 'arrogance'.


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I think I did not express myself correctly.I wanted to say that as human beings we tend to make mistakes and hiding them means not proposing them as a behavioral model to others.That just we made a mistake we are not proud of,we want to forget and try to improve ourselves.If we lied,we should make an effort to stop doing it in the future.Why should we say it  in the face of millions of viewers?

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Thanks, Hammoudi, for

Thanks, Hammoudi, for explaining.

Now everyone says it before millions of viewers. 


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All I can say is that these

All I can say is that these priests, or the priest that was caught with his mobile phone watching pornographic images should have been hung. Not that I am a preacher about porn but he probably was, you know these guys, the holier than thou types that tell us how to live our lives. I hope he's made a laughing stock because of it. The last paragraph is shocking Farzana, do people really fall for that kind of stuff? Christ, now if that's reality it is seriously scary.

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Reality is so many

Reality is so many times,scarier then fantasy. I remember one mass sucide.

             NEWS BRIEF: "U.S. struggles to understand mass suicide: blurring the line between life, death", by Mary Otto and Angie Cannon, Knight-Ridder Newspapers, The Providence Journal Bulletin, Friday, March 28, 1997, p. A1, 6.


"For them, death was not tragic. For people who called themselves monks and lived in a virtual cloister, tied to each other and to astrological portents, death was apparently not an end as much as a transition. 'I'm sure they were convinced of their immortality', said Dr. James Breckenridge, professor of religion at Baylor University, in Waco, Texas. 'We need to know more', Breckenridge and other experts said about the apparent suicides of 39 people in a mansion on a hilltop in Rancho Sante Fe, Calif[sic]. But, he said, death might well have been seen as 'anything but a tragedy for these people.'

In the name of so called religion humen can believe or do any horrible thing.


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I remember this, Dr. Jitu. 

I remember this, Dr. Jitu.  There was also that even larger mass suicide in Guyana in the 1970s, encouraged by the "Reverend" Jim Jones.

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Mary, the priest, even if he

Mary, the priest, even if he is made a laughing stock, will get away with it. We live in a society that looks the other way where misdemeanours by 'holy' people are concerned, and this is one area where all religions are equal!

What I wrote in the last para, and that Jitu has explained, exists to frightening degrees.


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I wonder farzana, what they

I wonder farzana, what they want to prove by this kind of reality shows? Why one should have to open his/her private life to the people?
Nothing but a TRP race.And people are rushing to the trap.It is a mockery of the truth. What people think truth is about?Is confession of premarital affairs on camera a truth? Even what you see and experience daily is not a truth sometimes.
And leave religion and all it's relatives to their haven of filth.

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Jitu, the question is not

Jitu, the question is not whether a public display means the truth, but the truth is the option to say it. And I should hope the answer is in the blog post itself when I wrote:

I am not suggesting that coming out is the best thing. In fact, these are highly personal and private matters, but they are not matters of public morality.

Our films and TV soaps show multiple marriages, adultery, promiscuity, dowry demands, abuse – physical and mental, and our newspapers and news channels carry such reports and follow up with tongue-hanging-out discussions.


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I've never watched the

I've never watched the American version of this in its entirety. To me, there is just something painful about watching someone confess to infidelity while his/her partner is hearing it for the first time along with the rest of us. I don't want to be a party to that, and it is most definitely not going to incite me to run out and have an affair with any man who will have me.

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Ellen, I watched last

Ellen, I watched last night’s episode. A matronly woman who one would never identify with such a thing did confess to an extra-marital affair. Both her husband and daughter who were present knew about it. The host is dignified and does not wring out tears. There are several aspects to these shows and to reality. And I must say that this is about the Indian scene which is different.

You wrote, "...it is most definitely not going to incite me to run out and have an affair with any man who will have me."

It won't, and that is the point I made. It isn’t only about any man wanting you or anyone; it also about not being incited to go for what one wants – be it man or thing – based on what others do.  


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Strong character

 "and it is most definitely not going to incite me to run out and have an affair with any man who will have me."


Strong character of a free woman ?Another definition of dignity,Ellen?

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Thanks, Abdelwahab, but I

Thanks, Abdelwahab, but I think it's more in tune with being an "old" woman.  One isn't very susceptible to the influence of others at a certain point.

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I think that coming clean

I think that coming clean about an affair, or some other activity that will hurt your partner, on television is incredibly disrespectful. These are things that should be discussed in private. As Ellen said, hearing such confessions wouldn't make me go out and fling myself into the arms of any old fellow, any more than watching those daredevil shows is going to make me set myself on fire whilst racing down a steep hill in a shopping cart. The godmen jumping in is no great surprise. If they do truly believe that these shows will influence the actions of the public, then their only concern is that they themselves will lose some of the power that they have to tell everyone what to do. They are motivated by self-interest.

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Gina, I think I have

Gina, I think I have answered some of the points in the reply to Ellen. Incidentally, there are music and comedy shows where children as young as five sing songs like “Touch, touch me, kiss me, kiss me” with all the moves of Bollywood films meant for grown ups. The comic routines feature these kids who mimic gays, sequences of the new openness in films, gangsters with their special patois, and all manner of what may be deemed adult behaviour.

You say, "They are motivated by self-interest."

True. As are the channels and news sources and governments...

PS: Since you like Bollywood songs, the one mentioned above is here, in case you'd like to check it out:



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The primary aim of this post

The primary aim of this post had started out wanting to emphasise on the godmen issue and transpose it with the reality show; the latter is something I have been working on for a larger piece.

Regarding the religious figures, a few months ago actress Mallika Sherawat was sent a special invitation not by some film producer or industrialist. It was from the very holy Shankaracharya of the Shree Ramachandrapura Mutt in Karnataka to lay the foundation for the largest Hanuman monument. High priests from Kerala and Mangalore were invited and pujas performed for her. 600 lotus flowers decorated the venue perhaps to symbolise her "pure soul", an honour she was bestowed with by the Shankaracharya himself.

In fact, this anointing of someone as pure is really patronising and presumptuous, especially since she has a reputation for being usually dressed minimally and performing what are termed ‘bold scenes’.

How pure are these saints when they indulge in such frivolities? What does this say about religious heads?

Do they need such marketing tactics? Is it prudent? Will it bring them more devotees, more money in their coffers?