Opinion

Teen Kanya? No, There Are Many More Nancy Bhabis Riding the Wild Side

New adult content platforms have spawned a generation of Bengali actresses operating on the raunchy side

Teen Kanya? No, There Are Many More Nancy Bhabis Riding the Wild Side
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On May 28, the Twitter handle of Xprime, an Indian or ‘desi’ porn film site, posted the promo of a film in which the actress and the actor, fully dressed, talk about the movie. The actress, who introduced herself as Tina Nandi and looked more comfortable than the male actor Subhankar, did all the talking, looking at the camera quite enticingly: “Both of us are coming on Xprime as a married couple. We also celebrated our honeymoon quite grandly. If you want to watch our honeymoon, subscribe to Xprime quickly.” The promo had 27,000 views on Twitter by August 3. One comment said: “Tina Nandi is on a roll. Glad she’s doing uncut with different actors & concepts every time. She knows how to keep her fans happy. Nice cast.” One reply to this was, “That’s good buddy but I am a bit confused about what other actresses of NueFliks and other OTT doing. See what you are saying is right, but bro watching one actress again and again seems boring.”

NueFliks is a subscription-based video-on-demand platform launched in 2019. It has 1,77,600-plus Twitter followers as of the beginning of August. Since the Raj Kundra case turned the spotlight on India’s booming, OTT-based adult film industry, NueFliks, from its Twitter handle, has been repeatedly arguing that platforms like Netflix, too, have explicit content but no one is talking about them. On July 20, the handle shared a tweet that said: “One can watch Gandu on Netflix India. That is more explicit than any other movie…. Still, media saying porn rackets etc.” To this, NueFliks added its own comments: “Amazon/Netflix cancelled many projects for India, many other entertainment companies pulling out investments which will cause more job loss.”

Gandu, the 2010 Bengali film from maverick director Q, is of course a critically acclaimed work known for its exp­licit scenes. It made its way to several film festivals around the world, before being released on Netflix. Over the past five decades, film viewers and lawmakers in most parts of the world have maintained a distinction between arthouse movies showing explicit nudity or sexual acts and pornography. It was on the basis of this differentiation that legendary American pop artist Andy Warhol’s 1969 film, Blue Movie, was allowed to run in theatres as a piece of art—the first instance of a film with explicit sex getting that right. Blue Movie showed actors having unsimulated intercourse, though for the larger part they spoke about the Vietnam War. Similarly, Gandu captures the actors Rii and Anubrata having real sex but the film goes much beyond sex and nudity; in Variety’s review, it’s “a high-energy example of a rarefied genre” that “grabs audiences by the throat and gradually works its way down.”

Meanwhile, there’s a graph that’s going up. Thanks to the rise of OTTs specialising in adult content, putting our official ban on the transmission of pornography in an odd light, India has now started getting her own porn stars. Among Indian porn-watchers, Tina Nandi has become quite a popular name. She does not follow anyone on Instagram but about 61,000 follow her—not to mention 18,500-plus Twitter followers amassed in just over two months since May 2021. By Nandi’s own claim on Twitter in July, her latest series, New Boss, which was to release on the app Uncut Adda, was her 80th project in a year.

Her posts draw comments quite liberally from her fans, some in praise of her biggest hits, the Tinasutra series, the Marriage Anniversary series and one called Mastermind, some expressing dislike for her male co-actors, some even asking if she did not have a problem at home being in adult movies so openly. Some, of course, abuse. The forms of add­ress range from ‘ma’am’, ‘dear’, ‘darling’ and ‘goddess’ to ‘prostitute’. In the comments, she keeps getting offers for collaboration, requesting her to check her inbox for details. She never responds to any comment publicly.

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Image courtesy Agents of Ishq, artist: AOI Team/Debasmita Das. Follow them on Instagram @agentsofishq.

Going by her Instagram accounts, she’s a Bengali whose home is in Bongaigaon, Assam, where her mother still lives; she stays in Calcutta for work. Recently, she also forayed into Hindi and Tamil films. She keeps posting photos (not nudes) of her travels, food, dresses and film posters, even asking for people’s opinion. She claims to have had a government job at a health engineering department and as an art and craft teacher in “Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan”. On August 2, she announced the grihaprabesh for her new flat and shared photos of the puja on Twitter. In an interview with one of the production houses she works for—the interview itself contains pornographic content—she said she joined the adult OTT industry only in July 2020. Speaking of an incident six months into the profession, she said, “I was quite surprised when, on my way to Chennai for work, a person on the train asked me: ‘Are you Tina Nandi?’ He later invited me for a meeting outside the rail station and gifted a Malabar gold coin. That felt like an award.” She said she didn’t mind people knowing her as a porn star and all she was concerned about was how to perform better.

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The boom in OTT adult content in India can be gauged from the following conversation on Twitter. On July 17, one viewer left this comment for NueFliks: “I guess overusing actresses is the issue here.” The platform responded thus (sic): “Many new OTT Platforms coming every day, subscriber base will always be split up; when we started we are the only one, now many people followed. Number of releases & fulfilling casting wishes directly proportional to increase in subscribers.” And this NueFliks tweet also speaks a lot about Tina Nandi’s popularity: “When Tina Nandi first appeared on Babli, everyone wanted to see more bold & requesting to cast her. Now she did extra bold but some ppl created environment which discouraged other actresses to follow her.”

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Of those who might have been discouraged, Jyoti Ghosh is certainly not one: some public comments affirm that she can be bolder than Nandi. Ghosh keeps posting photos, mostly selfies, on Instagram (8,000+ followers). She has even shared photos of her ‘family’. The comments are all from her viewers, though, those who have watched her biggest hits, like The Last Nightmare (2020), Dream Girl and Reason (both 2021). Nandi, it’s evident, is only one of several Bengali porn film stars who are also leading a public life on social media platforms. Nandita Dutta’s name also hit the public eye recently: she got arrested. Not because the police knew she was a porn star—two women had lodged complaints accusing her of forcing them to take part in pornographic shooting. The police (presumably) joined the list of viewers only while looking up her background. Otherwise quite famous in the adult film lovers’ world as the eponymous character in Nancy Bhabhi, a series released on NueFliks, Dutta, too, led a public life, introducing herself as a model and actress on social media platforms. On August 2, at a court in Barasat, North 24 Parganas, Dutta told journalists they should correct their headlines. “This was not ­pornography. This was normal nude shooting,” she said.

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Indeed, there’s a glut in Bengal—of actors and actresses, apps and production houses dealing with adult content. Some whose popularity is reflected from their social media accounts are Oasi Das, Sreemoyee, Dolan Majumdar, Aritaa Paul, Sudipa Dutta and Sucharita Bhattacharyya. One of Oasi Das’s Instagram accounts has 2,52,000 followers; ano­ther has 45,000. The pictures she posts are mostly bold photoshoots (not nude) but fans know her real claim to fame. Bhattacharyya, on the other hand, posts the most explicit of sex videos on her Twitter profile, which has got over 7,000 followers since she joined in October 2020. Such are the numbers all around that a senior police officer says investigations subsequent to the arrest of Dutta is leading them to believe that, as of now, Calcutta is the biggest centre for ­producing such adult content, after Mumbai.

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(This appeared in the print edition as "Teen Kanya? No, Many More")

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