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It’s a given that cinema has penetrated into the core of the society. No wonder, schools are no exceptions. That explains why no eyebrows were raised when a little girl at a recent school function swung and swayed to the glamorous song-and-dance number Arabic Kuthu from the Vijay-starrer Beast — ‘malama pitha pithathe..’ (translation defied!).
The audience, mostly consisting of parents of the school children, went into rhapsodies even as the girl began performing yet another filmy dance, no different from the earlier one.
The girl is surely ignorant, unlike the adults in the audience, about how the choreography and camerawork in such song-and-dance numbers feed voyeurism. We have taken it for granted that in film duets or solo dances, the camera always plays the role of a Peeping Tom, surreptitiously eyeing the heroine’s voluptuousness. We have become desensitised, and it elicits shock no more.
In appreciating children’s ‘skill’ in reproducing the same romantic or lewd expressions of the hero and heroine, the audience doesn’t seem to care about what kind of values children will imbibe at the tender age when love and lust are beyond their comprehension.
Teachers themselves who are meant to instil values and a sense of morality in students, train them to sing and dance to obscene film songs, catering to what’s popular, without concern for the consequences
More shocking is the fact that this particular event was at a government school. The child’s trainer was none other than her teacher who later on uploaded her performance on YouTube, which has crossed viewership of 28 lakh. TV channels too telecast it as if it were a major feat achieved by the school.
The Tamil Nadu Government’s Department of School Education routinely holds art and cultural celebrations in its schools in three categories: for classes 6 to 8; for classes 9 and 10; and for classes 11 and 12. “The contests are held in 37 activities including painting, handwriting, story-writing, oratory, essay-writing, making of handicrafts, hereditary games, humour, drama, writing editorials for newspapers etc.,” says a release from the department.
There were, of course, students who were at their artistic best in contests such as painting, Bharatanatyam, Karagattam and so on. However, when it comes to the song and dance contests of these festivals, it is mostly cinema choreography that borders on the obscene that dominates the trend.
The government’s note about the light music contests of the festivals is forthright: “Songs made in pleasing melodies should be sung. Cine songs can also figure, with the permission of teachers.” But the tragic irony is that teachers themselves who are meant to instil values and a sense of morality in students, train them to sing and dance to obscene film songs, catering to what’s popular, without concern for the consequences.
School art festivals have long been a metonym for aping filmy dance choreography with obscene overtones, with rare exceptions. What has been a trend in private schools has now sneaked into government schools as well.
Teenage is an impressionable period marked by whims and fancies, quirks and quiddities. Biological hormones arousing love and lust start wielding a hold on teenagers’ minds. So, if they are made to wear colourful costumes and play out the fantasy of being heroes and heroines, it will have a negative impact on their minds, which can hardly differentiate between the real and the make-believe.
The modern digital age has broken all inhibitions, especially among the youth. Several people have been lamenting about a video on social media — of a student tying the mangal sutra around the neck of a girl student — saying times have changed for the worse. In fact, it’s not the times that have become worse; it’s we who have led the youth astray.
Some may ask if only cinema has obscenities and if everything else is a good influence. No, TV serials too portray a very different world from real life and propagate some very dangerous and backward ideals. In addition, and most importantly, access to constant and unrefereed content on social media over mobile phones has played havoc with the moral conscience of society.
According to the Information Technology Law, the videos or audios of a person should not be uploaded without the person’s consent. Moreover, making videos of students below 18 years dancing and uploading them to YouTube is certainly a crime
Film songs and dances tend to play a significant role in moulding the minds of children when even schools approve of performing them for cultural festivals. The sheer number of times children watch every song to reproduce the lyrics and dance moves for their performance is enough to imprint certain wrong ways of thinking into their minds.
And this no doubt is having an impact in the way youth think women are to be treated. It is to be recalled in this context that India was found to be among the most unsafe of countries for women, according to a survey conducted by Thomson Reuters in 2018. Those who don’t know or understand that Reuters has established its credibility over decades and follows rigorous practises in its surveys may question its findings claiming that it is a foreign company and may have bias. Such people may rest assured that the National Crime Records Bureau of India corroborated the Reuters report’s finding in August last year, proving that sexual crime is on the upswing in India.
Commenting on the actions of the teacher who uploaded the performance of the obscene dance by her student to YouTube, S Murthy, coordinator of Education Development Confederation, says it is highly regrettable. “It will affect the students’ education and also their personal life and future too,” he says. “On the other hand, it was pleasant to see some students in my school performing folk dances such as parai. Such activities appropriate to our culture must be popularised.”
Advocate Arul Thumilan says, “According to the Information Technology Law, the videos or audios of a person should not be uploaded without the person’s consent. Moreover, making videos of students below 18 years dancing and uploading them to YouTube is certainly a crime.”
When opinions were sought on this issue from School Education Commissioner K Nandakumar and Principal Secretary Kakarla Usha, they declined to comment.
There is however a silver lining about school cultural festivals. Performance of hereditary art forms such as konnakol, villupattu and so on has been added to the list of programmes. However, present-day students have probably not heard about these art forms, let alone performed them.
Obscene film songs have the dangerous potential to normalise sexual molestation and unwanted advances and make them the order of the day down the line. So, the need of the hour is to ban them outright in schools
Students need to be trained by experts in these fields, so that they will get to learn about our heritage and strive to preserve it, rather than degenerate at a young age into emulating popular culture that is becoming more and more obscene. Training students in traditional performing arts will also provide a livelihood boost to its dwindling practitioners.
Obscene film songs have the dangerous potential to normalise sexual molestation and unwanted advances and make them the order of the day down the line. So, the need of the hour is to outright ban performing them in schools.
Chief Minister M K Stalin lamented in a video in October 2021:“The crimes against women and children have, of late, been increasing. I feel ashamed of it. I will do all I can to stem the rot.”
State-level art and cultural festivals and contests are planned for January 3-9. Right now the students are busy preparing for the mega event. So, let us give a wake-up call to the government to issue a ban on obscene film songs and dances at the event, at least now.
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