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Smitten By Smut

A slew of sex-and-crime mags grips the Malayali's attention and readership

Smitten By Smut
Smitten By Smut
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Sex sells everywhere, but in Kerala it sells like hot cakes. First, there were the infamous weekly Ma magazines that gripped the readers with their serialised pulp novels. Then came the soft porn film revolution which prompted even Satyajit Ray to taunt Kerala with "Show me, show me films like Her Nights." Now smutty sex and crime mags have become the rage.

The lurid covers and saucy headlines in the crowded news-stands are a giveaway to the sex-and-crime magazine wave. So, you have cover lines asking simply—'Sanyasi or sex maniac?' or hinting at a heady cocktail of politics and sex—'Sex maniac becomes minister'. Still others are graphic and no-holds-barred confessionals: 'Kunjalikutty stripped me, laid me naked on the floor and raped me' or 'Confessions of a girl abused by 138 men'. A lot of it could be pure hokum, but it hasn't hurt the soaring circulations of the 20-odd smut papers and magazines hitting news-stands. They come out of almost every district, with Kozhikode—the centre of the famous ice-cream parlour sex scandal involving politicians and writers—being home to six or seven of them.

Of course, they call themselves 'true' crime mags; most of them have the word crime in their mastheads, be it Crime, Crime Star, Crime Reporter, Palco Crime or Crime Report. Besides, there are Fire, Pulse of Kerala, Detective and Prahelika. Their aggressive editors are dead serious about their publications. "We're here to break a few ivory towers," says Titus Vallavil, editor of Crime Story, an eveninger published from Kochi, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram and the Gulf. Within three months of its launch, Crime Story claims a circulation of 30,000-35,000 copies. Now Vallavil is planning to launch Crime News in August, a publication which will focus exclusively on "business crimes".

But the pioneer of them all is Crime, the six-year-old magazine published from Kozhikode, which has now grown into a six-magazine-strong publishing empire called the Manolokam group. Crime made most of the ice-cream parlour case and other sex scandals that rocked the state half a decade ago. It also fetched publisher and editor-in-chief T.P. Nandakumar star status. Some readers respect him for his courage and sense of timing. He has taken on almost all the bigwigs in politics. And if he is to be believed, each politician is a sexual pervert. Soem find his methodology and 'honesty' suspect: "He is just another sleazebag, a parasite out to feed on the decay in the society," says a sociologist. Others accuse him of making millions out of blackmailing politicians, intellectuals and celebrities. But Nandakumar's defence is: "My life is an open book. I have documents to support each of my stories. We only publish what the mainstream dare not."

Nandakumar's rise from a small-time freelancer to a smut publishing tycoon is something of a marvel. The combined circulation of his magazines—Crime, Crime Star, Manolokam, Cinema Today and Honeymoon—is more than 1.5 lakh. He has taken on Opposition leader V.S. Achuthanandan (accused of money-laundering), CPI(M)'s M.A. Baby (accused of misusing government funds in the name of a cultural festival), industries minister P.K. Kunjalikutty (accused in the Kozhikode sex scandal), Ezhava leader Vellapaly Natesan (links with liquor mafia), noted Malayalam writer and critic Sukumar Azhikode (Nandakumar published letters sent by the writer to three of his 'ex-flames', written on official notepads of educational institutions he headed), former Union minister P.J. Kurien (involved in a sex scandal) and legislator Shobana George (for bribery, extortion and running a prostitution ring). "We publish high-brow stuff too," quips Nandakumar.

Most of them indeed do. Palco Crime is serialising the translation of Almost Transparent Blue, an award-winning Japanese novel by Ryu Murakami. Another one has stories by writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Julio Cortazar. But their USP remains controversies, scandals and affairs. Mediawatchers insist their readership is restricted to small towns and suburbs. Writer Paul Zacharia, who once found an erotic story he had written published in one of Nandakumar's magazines without his permission, is acerbic: "When such magazines make heavy weather of small issues like nude photographs of students of a reputed women's college being available on the Internet, they are not worried about falling social mores," he wrote. "It's only a pretext to publish smut. Aren't there issues of far more gravity than these in Kerala?" Not many agree with him these days—and smut is moving faster than ever before in God's Own Country.

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