More than four decades ago, the Debonair Magazine came into being on Indian news stand as a desi version of Playboy. The magazine was well known for its topless female centerfold. It had a great subscription figure but there was something sleazy associated with the magazine.
The copies of Debonair were often found in the cupboards of Bachelors or under the pillows of boys’ hostel, because it was branded as indecent magazine. Even though the magazine had articles from famous poets like Nissim Ezekiel, interviews of Tiger Pataudi and Mr. Vajypayee, yet our society could not accept it.
The print campaign for Debonair in 1990 was bold and it was at par with international standards of advertising. Such sexual overtones generated quite a controversy at a time when Indian viewers were not used to see advertisements breaking the norms of our society.
The ads with lines like
Comics are for children
Admit it you bought it only for the page 7
Men and Women have same sex organ
Safer than Viagra
And claiming up front that they have turned boys into men since 1972
These ads were seen as breaking moral norms and were pushing the envelope a bit too far for the authorities. These ads challenged conservative Indian sensibilities. It took no time for society to label them as indecent, vulgar and suggestive.
The debate between Decency and Indecency will continue forever. But the sensibilities need to get evolved with the passage of time.