[Updated on May 2]
Namita Bhandare in Mint
Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that the moral grandstanding on the Indian Premier League, or IPL, cheerleader controversy has the elements of a pre-written script with the dramatis personae mouthing predictable lines? First, the cast of characters: Siddharam Mehetre is Maharashtra’s minister of state for home. He finds cheerleaders and their performance “absolutely obscene” and out of place in a country where “womanhood is worshipped”.
Maharashtra’s moral police wants to ban cheereaders from IPL matches played in the state for their ‘vulgar’ and ‘obscene’ performance. Some conservative politicians would not like these girls to perform at the Indian Premier League’s upcoming matches in the state’s capital city, Bombay (Mumbai).
Many IPL franchisees have brought in foreign cheerleaders to add a bit of US-style glitz to the popular game. While cricket fans are not complaining, these politicians are not amused. They say that in a country where “womanhood is worshipped,” cheerleaders are “an affront” to Indian culture. And they ask: “How can anything obscene like this be allowed?”
Result? The state government gives in to the moral police. The franchisees will have to apply for permits before cheerleaders can be allowed to perform in Mumbai. If the cheerleaders “indulge in obscenity,” the franchisees will be fined.
However, Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, who owns the IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders, does not find anything vulgar about cheerleaders. “I am also a family person, I do not see anything negative in it,” he said
National Commission for Women Girija Vyas said “we should promote our culture by bringing folk dancers and musicians in these matches.”
More here, here, here and here
And as for the cheerleaders themselves, they have some harrowing stories: “It’s been horrendous,” Tabitha, a cheerleader from Uzbekistan, told the Hindustan Times. “Wherever we go we do expect people to pass lewd, snide remarks but I’m shocked by the nature and magnitude of the comments people pass here.” Another cheerleader, Christy, told The Telegraph, Calcutta, “If they want us to be fully clad, we don’t mind.”
Body politics: bahu okay, others bawdy
From The Telegraph, Calcutta:
From the Indian Politician’s Dictionary, edited by Amar Singh, Amitabh Bachchan’s “younger brother”:
Single standards: If Mumbai bar girls are banned, so should be the Indian Premier League’s pom-pom girls.
Obscene: What the Washington Redskins wear, but not what “bahu” Aishwarya Rai wore in Dhoom:2
[Photos: Left, a cheerleader at an IPL match in Bangalore; right, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the movie Dhoom:2]