We take pride in brow beating every time saying we are the largest Democracy in the world.But when it comes to Democratic practices like Freedom of Speech, it seems this applies only to politicians and not the common Citizen. Remember last year when after the death of a Regional political party leader, the Police arrested two 21 year olds over a Facebook remark and like, while the great city of Mumbai was paying respect by closing down business for three days,which it did not even do even when Pakistani terrorists attacked us on 26/11. The film Industry has always been a soft target of politicians, any politician who wants to get famous just needs to throw some stones on any multiplex and voila the media covers you and people who ask for ban of certain “controversial” films,books and songs are depicted by Media as representing people.These people are extremely sensitive,so much sensitive that they get offended even before reading a book or watching a movie.
While mainstream American filmmakers and actors are vocal about political choices and political decisions taken by their political masters, rarely we do see our own actors doing the same. Remember when Aamir Khan supported Narmada Bachao Aandolan what happened?The so called BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate who claims that in a Democracy criticism is essential, forgets his own dictum when it comes to when people who criticize his policies. Like when Aamir Khan had raised certain doubts about the Sardar Sarovar Project which as a Citizen of India he is entitled to the result was his film (Fanaa) got banned in Gujarat as his statements had apparently hurt the sentiments of Gujarati People. We all know it was more to do with Modi’s ego and nothing else. Gujarat Government was also responsible for the unofficial ban of Nandita Das’s Firaaq and Rahul Dholakia’s Parzania.
While here in Maharashtra, it seems political parties are competing with each other to show they are more sensitive, MNS threatened Karan Johar’s production Wake Up Sid, because a character in the movie who is from Calcutta, refers to this city as Bombay and not Mumbai. Raj Thackeray decided it is derogatory for people to refer to this city as Bombay and wanted a ban on this movie. While one of the themes of the movie was how a young girl realizes her dreams and falls in love with this city of dreams, Raj conveniently ignored this. Karan Johar rushed to his home, made changes and apologized to him. Given the fact that this problem happened after film was released,all Karan could do was apologize,imagine the stakes involved here,it was the debut film of film maker (Ayan Mukerji), the money involved and the apathy of our administration in helping the film industry.
While it seems Raj’s parent party Shiv Sena which has the trademark attitude of getting hurt was flummoxed as to how could this new party steal their limelight. Well their moment came sooner than they expected when SRK, voiced his disagreement over the unofficial ban of Pakistani Players. Coincidentally one of the unique aspects of us Indians is that in general we do not have official bans. Shiv Sena took offence to SRK’s statement and said it was disrespect to Indians and SRK should apologise. “I think it’s actually humiliating to me as one of the owners of KKR that this has happened,” said SRK. “We are known to invite everyone, and we should have. If there were issues, they should have been put out earlier so that things could happen respectfully.” This what SRK said with his point being made as a private businessman where he has every right to work with anyone on basis of merit also here he highlighted the fact instead of pushing aside let the same by taking a convenient approach as people usually do. But thankfully this time Karan did not crawl or bend and thankfully for once the Government provided security to theatres screening the film and it was released a day late on Saturday.
Remember when Indian Government banned and confiscated all the prints of Kissa Kursi Ka and burned it’s master print because it was satire and they thought common people should not laugh at them. Similarly in 1975 Indira Gandhi single handedly decided Aandhi should be banned for obvious reasons. Even the Man who can do everything SUPERSTAR RAJNIKANTH had to delete some portions pertaining to Periyar from his film Baba, this after the Censor Board had Cleared with movie with U certificate, but then DMK’s sentiments were hurt.
Last year popular Tamil actor Vijay’s Film Thuppakki had to face the anger of some 23 Muslim outfits who felt the movie depicted them in bad light. Earlier this year Kamal Hassan’s Vishwaroopam had to face political witch hunt by Tamil Nadu Government when they decided based on intelligence report that the movie will hurt the sentiments of certain religious community. Now how they arrived at the conclusion nobody knows, but the enthusiasm shown by district collectors to ensure that the movie was not screened in Tamil Nadu was just to be seen, if only they had taken steps to ensure peaceful screening of the movie instead.
Now this time it is Vijay,who is facing the political backlash, yes the same Vijay who had suspended shooting of Thalaivaa, till the time Vishwaroopam was released.Now Thalaivaa is facing an unofficial ban in Tamil Nadu, due to some fringe Group and with the Vishwaroopam incident the Tamil Nadu Government has become wiser, this time they are playing it safe by saying they are not opposed to the release of the movie, but it would not take any genius to figure out who is behind the ban of this film.
Do only politicians have a right to air their views in India? How do people get offended by something which they have not yet watched? If they get offended by Cinema, is any one forcing them to watch it? If you do not like the movie ignore it and say why do not you like it, but why this call for bans?Why are our politicians up in arms when our film stars air their views, why do they stop or delay the release the film, for their own political gains?
Remember when Sachin Tendulkar said Mumbai belongs to All Indians and not just a state how Bal Thackeray’s political mouthpiece Saamna wrote an article saying Sachin should play cricket and not indulge in politics. Why do we get offended when an economist says he does not like Modi, isn’t it more fun if we have more diverse views,why do we as a Nation fail to celebrate our diversity?
This time the Tamil Industry is not even vocal about it’s displeasure about political witch hunt against it’s own member.
On this day of 67th Independence day, let us think on whether we do we have freedom even to watch what we want, who are these political masters who will decide what should we watch or not. Some people may say it is Cinema, it is not question of life and death, but I say yes it is question of freedom,how can anyone live without freedom to Decide what they want.
In a Country like India, Cinema is as an art form which appeals to all sections,this is only the truly Democratic art form.You can boo if you do not like the movie, you can clap when your favourite hero makes his entry, heck you do not even need to read and write to watch movies.
I do not have solutions to the problems I have mentioned, but maybe someone among you may have some solution for the same.The only thing important is that we should react and voice our displeasure to our political masters before it is to late.
On a parting note I would like to share a quote which is inscribed in the North Block,
“Liberty will not descend to a people: a people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing which must be earned before it can be enjoyed”.
Wishing you all a Happy Independence Day.