Even amidst all its paradoxes, India undoubtedly continues to pile up more and more of them. We stutter during conversations about sex and don’t seem to mind the word censored out on our Tata Sky subtitles yet the Kama Sutra still remains the most explicit and famous text from ancient India. From visually depicting different sexual positions to giving guidance on sexual desire, the book has everything ‘our culture’ claims to be perverted and foreign. Of course, the Kama Sutra has its own flaws but even still, it’s nice to note that as we spiral into a more regressive culture, with that, we maybe we progressing into a regressive pattern, young India is consistently resisting the trend.
Last year, while scrolling through daily news, Akshita Chandra was one of the many people who was angered and perplexed when she read the headline, “Mumbai: Couples picked up from hotel rooms, charged with public indecency”. This inspired her later to create a series of illustrations, each broadly speaking about censorship and moral policing. “The idea was to make forms, the imagery of which is directly inspired by the Khajuraho temples, and then juxtaposed with the few recent examples of censorship/moral policing and see what kind of a palindrome is created in doing so,” explained the student from Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, to us.
By playing with language, the project is named ‘Being Censitive’ and it also examines both censorship stemming out of authoritative bodies and moral policing as the artist found out that there was a great overlap between both. She explains, “It is when some try to exercise censorship, even though it might not be their place to do so--based on politics of sentiments--that the line becomes very blurred. Being censorious and censorship are regarded as two different terms. People have a right to be censorious–they can comment, oppose and even condemn. But not threaten, destroy or burn.”
Chandra’s illustrations are interactive and kinetic, all highlighting the irony of ‘our culture’. She says, “I knew I wanted to make the artworks interactive. Because I was dealing with a concept such as censorship, interactivity went well with the idea of what is being concealed and how could the viewer help reveal the same.” Although the biggest irony of them all was created by Behance when her project was flagged for ‘adult content’, which why she later curated it on Tumblr to increase visibility.
All her illustrations directly hit top notch satires by visually narrating samples of Indian censorship. From the time when lingerie clad mannequins displayed in Mumbai were taken down to when Romedy Now blurred clothed cleavage to hide the ‘promiscuity of the foreign culture’, Chandra has managed to incorporate all of it using the structure and forms of the erotic art in Khajuraho temples.