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Debonair Magazine founded in 1971 is an Indian men’s magazine, originally modeled after the American editor of Playboy. The magazine, best known for its topless female centerfolds, was launched by Ashok Row Kavi and Anthony Van Braband five decades ago.
The magazine had several court cases and criminal complaints – the famous section being 292 of the Indian Penal Code pending against it and the government and police persecuted it vigorously for its topless images and bold centre spreads. The office was sealed several times during the 1980 and 1990, but the magazine never-the-less managed to make it to the stands operating from secret locations in places like Daman and Diu. Even the printers were raided and printing presses sealed, but the publishers of the magazine used to pay hard cash and at times double the amount, so there were always new printers willing to take on the risky job. The printing press was always a top secret location and even the staff at Debonair did not know where the magazine was printed. Only a couple of people were privy to the information. Much has changed today and there are no nudes or topless women any more. Debonair magazine now adheres to the letter of the law, though not the spirit.
The magazine was during its heyday known to sell about Two lakh copies a month and was making a lot of money. The arrival of the internet changed it all with more people preferring to watch steamy images of half-clothed women in the privacy of the bedrooms. Even though, Debonair magazine managed to maintain a steady fan following and even today is rumored to sell about 50,000 copies each month.
The models who posed for Debonair included many middle-class working women – many of them were far from professional models and sported bulky voluptuous bodies, including lawyers, house-wives and school teachers. A lady lawyer from Delhi who posed topless for the magazine in the 1990s was barred by the Bar Council of Delhi and was prevented from practicing law. Earlier, till the late 1990s, models posing topless and semi-nude were paid anywhere from Rs 3000 to Rs 15000, depending on which photographer they shot with. However, since 2000, the magazine has done away with payments and models appearing in Debonair are not paid a dime.
Under editor Derek Bose, Debonair was reformatted to remove nudity and target a younger demographic in 2005. Several top editors and journalists in India have at one point worked with the magazine including Vinod Mehta (now with the Outlook Group) and Anil Dharker to name a few.
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