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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 11:30 GMT
Magazine targets the 'Indian lad'

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Delhi

Cover of the first issue of Maxim
Maxim wants to appeal to India's image conscious men
Is primetime Priyanka too hot to handle? Forgive me for pondering the merits of Priyanka Chopra, the Bollywood starlet and former winner of the Miss World beauty pageant.

But this is the burning question asked of us by the inaugural Indian edition of Maxim - the British "lad mag" which has just made its sub-continental debut with a pouting Priyanka plastered across its glossy front cover.

Readers are also promised information on "100 things you never knew about women", a "how to" guide on professional begging, and a must-see article on the police inspector in Uttar Pradesh Panda, who fervently believes that he is the incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Radha.

'Sizzling editorial'

There are health and survival tips.

'Spend, spend, spend; enjoy, enjoy, enjoy' would appear to be its unofficial motto

Two bikini-clad models helpfully demonstrate how to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre (handy if you have a piece of food stuck in your throat).

Other parts of the magazine are a masala-like blend of men, motors and models.

Readers back in Britain will recognize the recipe. For audiences in the subcontinent, it is sizzling editorial.

The publishers of Indian Maxim have clearly calculated that 20-something men in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad are just as puerile and inane as their counterparts in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

A picture in the magazine Maxim
India's city boys want to lead a glamorous lifestyle

More curiously, they believe they have identified a new demographic: the Indian Lad.

So who do they have in mind?

Apparently, a call centre employee who is earning more in his mid-20s than his father was being paid in his mid-40s; a young man with small-town roots but big-city ambitions.

A social climber keen to sample the best food, wine, clothes, movies and machines; an image-conscious trend-follower with enough disposable income to afford the latest gizmos and gadgets; a guy with his finger closely on the pulse and the latest mobile phone in his palm.

It is the personification of the new, metro-centric India.

Sex sells?

Of course, it is not the first time that Indians have been exposed to sex.

This after all is the land of the Kama Sutra - a country, as others have written, where the sculptures at its holy temples are often more explicit than its men's magazines.

Statues of dancing courtesan in India's Khajuraho temples
Figurines in ancient Indian temples depicted Kama Sutra

What has changed is Indians' willingness to talk and read about it openly.

It is no longer a matter of shame or embarrassment to have a magazine like this in the home.

If anything, it has become something of a glossy status symbol.

But the flesh quotient of the magazine - which, on its front cover at least, registers lower on the "bare skin scale" than the Indian version of Cosmopolitan - explains only part of its appeal.

In many ways, Maxim is less about beauties you can ogle than things you can buy.

It is about instant consumption and instant gratification.


Absent from its pages are articles on personal finance, offering tips on how best and cautiously to invest and save your money.

"Spend, spend, spend; enjoy, enjoy, enjoy" would appear to be its unofficial motto.

Also absent from its pages is any mention of caste.

Seemingly, it is a magazine for men who want to be defined by a lifestyle they are prepared to work and pay for rather than the privileges they have inherited or the caste-based grievances they have grown up nursing.

The publication of the magazine has sparked fairly predictable debates about the Westernisation of Indian culture and the permissiveness of its youth.

What it is has singularly failed to do is to generate much genuine outrage.

"Where are the VHP protesters burning copies in the streets?" asks Maxim editor Sunil Mehra, referring to the hard-line Hindu nationalists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who have long viewed themselves as the guardians of Indian morality.

By capturing the aspirational mood of the times, Maxim looks almost certain to be a commercial success. Its first print run of 80,000 copies sold out in 10 days.

It seems be generating much more awe than shock.

Here is a selection of your comments on this article.

Maxim is bound to be a big hit in India ... it will still be bought by the affluent lad as are several other magazines named and unnamed in your editorial piece ... after all, as rightly stated, the affluent Indian lad is NO DIFFERENT from his peers in the developed westernised world ... after all, the relative higher levels of affluence coupled with constant exposure to western literature and internet will impel him to do so. If the lad mag is purchased, then it can by no stretch of imagination be called influence ... it has been a choice (good or bad) exercised by the affordable eligible ... only regret is that India could do well to see more thought-provoking media rather than stuff as Maxim.
Ve Ve Prabhu, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

It's funny to see most of the people venting their fury and frustration are all outside India in the USA or Europe. Hypocrites! What do you mean western influence? You get out of India to enjoy the benefits of "western influence", but then you want India to stay the way it was so that you could go back home to shed some of the inferiority complex you got living in the western world.
Rohith, usa

I don't know why some people here are seeing this as a new influence on Indian men. Internet, Satellite TV, magazines like Cosmopolitan already brought western culture to Indian households and men. This isn't something new.
Ramesh Pin, India (presently studying in Us)

I see India going the same route as Korea/Singapore/China and other South-Asian countries ... Best part of oriental culture is getting replaced with the worst part of Western society ...
Srinivas, USA

Those days are long gone when you could sit down with the family both the young and the older generation and watch a nice Hindi Movie not having to worry about the sex scenes that might just suddenly appear. Gone are the days of the good old films like Mother India and Heer Rhanja. I'm young myself but sex in Hindi films is a big no. I don' find it appealing whatsoever
Gurdeep Singh, United Kingdom

People should not pass judgment on what people can and cannot read. It is the very essence of democracy. The right to choose. If people are offended, don't read the magazines.
Saif, Dubai, UAE

VHP is right. Decadence is assailing Indians from many directions.. movies, magazines, filthy talk in the streets where Hindu women are targetted for rape, seduction and conversion blight..etc. Where is the end? Decent citizens and BBC like media need to safeguard the interests of the weak and vulnerable Indian women and ....of course men too. AIDS epidemic is partly one big reason why this sort of filth must be pre-empted out.
Fareena Raza, India

Puritanism and permissiveness have both co-existed in India's culture. Hindu religion has ascetic and tantric (permissive) sects. Thousand years of Islamic influence, Victorian hypocrisy and Gandhi's strict, almost pathological, puritanism are now giving way to the 'any thing goes' post-capitalist western culture. But who cares? 80,000 English-speaking youth are but a demographic drop in the billion plus Indian multitude.
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, US

I know I'm in the minority when I say this - but this is just sad. The influence of Western decadence and this society of instant gratification has taken hold in the long-standing conservative roots of Indian culture. The gradual adjustment to openness about sex and dating in Indian culture is not something that should be embraced, but should (in my opinion) continue to be shunned and looked down upon. It seems that it's only a matter of time before promiscuity will be envied by those of the Indian ethnicity, and a man or woman's modesty will be frowned upon. This magazine only speeds up the process.
Conservative, USA

If Indians wanted to act and behave like English lads then they should not have chased the British out.
Dr. Karthigeyan Subramaniam, U.S.A

There is already enough 'sex' around for Indian men to enjoy without the need for a lads mag. I am Indian myself and spent 10 months in India in 2004 and was shocked at the lack of censorship of TV programming - I have seen films/foreign sitcoms showing explicit sexual scenes/vulgar language at 730am in the morning! Also, Indian men in India need to learn to respect women first, instead of just 'ogling' at them - there is already enough semi clad women on Indian TV and media, so the addition of a 'lads mag' is no big deal.
Pro Ganguly, UK

It's high time the men of India were enlightened. Im all for it, if it means they manufacture males that are more in touch with the real world.
Preeti Gour, czech republic

I am disgusted that India is being portrayed as a sex mad country. With my recent trip to India I was absolutely shocked with the amount of sexual scenes in films. My partner Diane was shocked as she remembered films as clean and down to earth, there are no way, these films is for family viewing. I believe India needs to concentrate on family values and less on these sex made films which put false hope in young children of society.
jissu sidhu kerpal, England OLDHAM - migrated from india 6 years ago

well if girls had Elle, cosmo et al, and we didn't read about caste issues there, then why should the "intelligent" man get Maxim. I agree it's an economic thing but I also feel that you can't restrict the audience to call center guys. There must be others who just want to read something that caters to male Jockeys rather than girls' hair removal gadgets. As far as models and bikini are concerned-Indians were always- or are-shameless oglers, even hypocritically so!
Aparna, USA

Here we go again. We are seeing westernization infiltrate another aspect of Asian society. What is scary about India, however, is how susceptible it is to English and American pop culture. Market liberalization may be boosting the Indian economy and allowing the country to charter new territories, but you only have to look at the United States and the UK to see how these things eventually come around and bite you in the rear. I hope the leaders of India know what they are getting themselves into.
cass, usa

Although this format works well in the the UK, I'm not sure it will be as successful in India. If the magazine sticks to gadgets and lifestyle etc then it will be fine but any attempt to venture into discussions about sex and sexuality will fall flat on their face because such subjects are still taboo in India. When such mags were launched in France, again, they seemed out of place in a country which is open about sex and (hetero)sexuality. I think they work best in the UK and USA, countries which maintain a strange mix of private openness and burning shame about sex.
David Jacob, London, England


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