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While We Were Lauding Milind Soman For Nude Run, Poonam Pandey Got Arrested For “Obscene” Shoot

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Amidst cheers and swoons pouring in for Milind Soman’s naked birthday run on the beach, actress Poonam Pandey has been booked by the Goa Police for an alleged “vulgar” public shoot. A complaint was filed against her on November 4 for shooting the said video at Chapoli Dam, which is government property, after outrage by the women’s wing of a political party.

Going by news reports, Pandey’s shoot has caused a furore in the state. An FIR has been filed against person(s) involved in the shoot, as well as a suspension order was served to two cops for allowing “misuse of government machinery.” In the context of it all, the irony that the internet still can’t get enough of Soman’s nude picture is glaring. The Goa police have now arrested Pandey from North Goa, reports Times of India.

On November 6, Hindustan Times reported that Pandey, along with her filmmaker husband Sam Bombay were granted bail by Goa Police on the day of arrest. The couple was given bail by Canacona’s judicial magistrate first class, and the bond was set at rupees 20,000 each. Pandey and her husband cannot leave Goa without the court’s permission and have been instructed to report to the police station for six days.

The two events, that incidentally have come tailing one another, have yet again held a mirror up to the double standards that pervade Indian society. People were comfortable with Soman’s naked form streaking down a beach. Appreciative even, of his health and daring. Myself included. And that Pandey’s arrest comes only a day after all of this transpired is almost satirical. In fact, I called it yesterday, when I wrote that as women, there’s nothing we can do but envy Soman for the frankness of his nudity. Because in our society, there is no place for acceptance of a women’s nudity – no matter how complete, semi, or minuscule it is.

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Why The Difference In Reaction To Poonam Pandey And Soman’s Nudity?

Pandey has long been under the glare of public scrutiny for the content she puts out. Much of it causes controversy for its free-flowing and unabashed nakedness. Her explicit pictures and videos, including a reported sex tape now deleted, have rendered her an “adult” figure in the public imagination. So automatically, given the conservativeness of India on these fronts, people are compelled to instantly condemn anything she does. Therefore many on social media are hailing her arrest for “obscenity,” saying that she had it coming.

But they are failing to see the hypocrisy of the situation, compounded with Soman’s case.

The reactions that Soman’s nude picture drew ranged from snarky jibes to lame memes. Something that every active social media user, almost by default, endures – notwithstanding whether s/he has uploaded a nude. On the other hand, every picture of Pandey posing naked is flooded with comments hinting at sexual innuendos, immorality, rape, and sometimes even death threats. Is this not an indication of society’s bias outlook towards nudity? Why is the female physical form always invite objectification whereas a man’s form personifies rawness, earthiness, machismo?

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Social Media Reacts To The Hypocrisy

Poonam Pandey, in her own preferred way, has attempted to break the shame around female nudity on our television, film, and mobile screens. Hers may appear to be a heavy-handed approach since our society is still obsessed with a woman’s virtue and women’s safety is utterly compromised in our country. But would it be wrong to say that she has managed to make some headway in mainstreaming public nudity, even if in a personal capacity? In fact, she is not the first to have done so – Protima Bedi streaked down Juhu Beach in 1974 – and she definitely won’t be the last.

So why is Pandey being given this extreme treatment, by authorities and the audience both? Is it because of her image as an “adult” star? Is it because her status as a performer isn’t perceived to be as “clean” or “dignified” as Soman’s supermodel status is?

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Social media has not missed the difference in both cases. Many have reacted strongly to Pandey’s detainment, rightfully claiming that we are “kinder to our nude men than to our nude women.”

Update: On October 6, Milind Soman was booked by Goa Police on charges of obscenity and sharing obscene images via electronic media. “Case registered against model-actor-fitness promoter Milind Soman, under IPC Sec 294 (Obscene acts and songs) & Sec 67 (Punishment for publishing/transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of IT Act for his social media post where he was seen sprinting naked at a Goa beach,” said a report by ANI.

The views expressed are the author’s own.