Samrat Sengupta’s choice for a Christmas night out with the family was the safest option that never disappoints – the mall. As soon as he entered Lake Mall in Kolkata’s Kalighat area on December 25, Sengupta was almost crowd-swept out of the building.
Sengupta’s attention fell on some signs on the floor, tracing the way till the event. Unable to take the casual promotion of stalking, Sengupta clicked a picture of the sign, determined to write a Facebook post later. The sign is loosely translated as, “Follow your ‘boudi’ (bhabhi in Hindi) and try your luck”.
(Translation: On the evening of December 25, I went to Lake Mall to find a chaos for the promotion of an event. It was a promotion for the web series, Dupur Thakurpo, which depicts the fetish of young boys to pine for a married woman’s attention. The signs that were meant to attract people to the event openly encouraged stalking women. The signs are in Bengali but written in English letters with incorrect spellings. The mall was extremely crowded and I managed to take a picture, despite being asked to move by the guards. Stalking gets normalised because of such promotions.)
Dupur Thakurpo is a web series on the lust-filled relationship between young boys and an older woman in their locality. After watching the promo of the series, it doesn’t take an expert to deduce that the show promotes stalking, the kind that young men so innocently go ahead with after seeing a potential “conquer” walk into their locality. At one point, the song in the promo goes, “…figure jeno trigger dabaye” (translation: …a figure that triggers)
“I was horrified to see the signs. I understand that the web series needs to be promoted, but I don’t see why they had to use language that would clearly be seen as an encouragement for a vast majority. Stalking is still a very real problem that women have to battle on a regular basis. It’s extremely irresponsible of the production house that decided to go through such avenues for getting the public attention,” Sengupta told InUth.
Women’s rights activist Urmi Basu, who runs a non-profit organisation, New Light, in Kolkata, says promotions like this condone stalking and gives a free pass for objectionable behaviour. “It creates a licence for young men to follow any woman they wish to “get”. The promotion objectifies women, encourages people to cross boundaries of privacy and condones unwarranted sexual advances in a suggestive way. Just by the way it is written, it cannot be established that it encourages stalking but the promotion certainly has all the ingredients to normalise stalking,” she said.
The web series is a part of the video streaming platform, Hoichoi, launched by the production agency Shree Venkatesh Films. When InUth contacted Sree Venkatesh Films, the official spokesperson for Hoichoi said, “As part of an on-ground promotion strategy, in the message – “Uma Boudi ke follow korey hoye jak” – we encouraged people to get to know the central character of the web-series, a fictitious character named “Uma Boudi” and to “follow” the fictitious character by visiting the hoichoi kiosk at Lake Mall. Here, the word “follow” is used purely in a social media context – i.e. to “follow” something is to subscribe & receive updates on that topic.”