The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has recommended 94 cuts for the controversy driven movie ‘Udta Punjab’. Pahlaj Nihalani the Head of CBFC even believes the name of a dog in the movie “Jacky Chain” has to be changed, as it might hurt the sentiments of famous Hollywood star “Jackie Chan”. He is an epitome of regressive minds in a country which aspires to be a forward thinking society. The movie deals with the potent drug problem that is hampering the lives of youngsters in Punjab. Apparently the head of the censor board is a staunch supporter of BJP who is an ally of the current ruling party ‘Akali Dal’ in Punjab. He wants a single policy on the censorship of nudity in all media similar to films.
Do you even know Mr. Nihalani, that anyone with the access to internet can watch endless amount of pornography by just typing three letters ‘SEX’? You can drink alcohol, buy cigarettes, make babies but can’t watch ‘that’ scene in a movie. We Indians would comfortably make it to the list of most hippocratic people on earth. Anurag Kashyap, a noted director and the producer of ‘Udta Punjab’ lambasted at the censor board for behaving like a dictatorship regime like that of North Korea.
Now let’s not point the gun at Mr. Nihalani, rather it’s time to observe the Nihalani in you. Million amongst us raged hatred over comedian Tanmay Bhat for the spoof video that detracted the image of cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and famous playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. Let’s understand the fact that nobody is above humour, not even the Bharat Ratna. Almost most of the political parties in Maharashtra were so enraged that they called for an FIR against Tanmay Bhat. Sensationalisation has become the norm of the day – a spoof video to get agitated for? Come on India, it’s too irrelevant in a larger scheme of things, especially in a country like ours, where there are far more bigger issues to get scandalized about. In healthy societies, satirists are looked up with respect, while we need not glorify people like Tanmay Bhat, but we can sure do ignore, if we can’t take up humour on our cheeks.
Vishwaroopam (a bilingual film) was another prey to religious outfits. ‘Hindu Makkal Katchi’ party demanded for a change of title from Sanskrit to pure Tamil followed by the theatre owners who cried out for the rollback of releasing the movie via Direct to Home (DTH). And the issue intensified as ‘Muslim outfits’ called for a ban on the movie, without even having watched it. Kamal Hassan organized a special screening for them following their demand. The issue got boiled up to a point and out of sheer frustration, the actor vented out that, he might end up fleeing from the state of Tamilnadu and India, having been fed up largely by the dirty political game. The estimated loss of revenues from the banning stooges amounted to Rs.300-600 million.
Is that the respect art deserves? The extent of free speech and right to offend can be argued with resonance as in the case of “Charlie Hebdo” where 12 people were killed at the satirical magazine in Paris in 2015. I’m not intending to pronounce a judgement here on the same, but it is one such curious case which requires deliberate understanding on the degree of freedom of speech.We cannot credibly dismiss the fact that Charlie Hebdo cartoons were not racist and islamophobic, because it was. The line of satire was overdrawn and a mockery of Islam was obvious. While I don’t dare to say that cartoonists must have been executed for their drawing, I wished they had the cognisance to understand the implications, it might have brought forth in the form of losing their lives. Charlie Hebdo’s case is a perfect illustration of bringing a fine line between satire and offensive provocation instead of dancing around in the theme of freedom of speech.
But when does Indians like Nihalani, are going to realize that their view of an utopian world is just a myopic one? Their thinking of human life as sacrosanct is improbable albeit their hypocrisy. When was the last time a movie exasperated violence in India? I understand as a nation, we are too vast and diverse to unite on sarcasm, but it is so annoying that we had given too much attention to an unfunny video. Without watching a movie, religious and political outfit’s calls for ban, a tactic used to gain unpopular attention by bashing the star icons.
I remember, Aaron Sorkin’s line from The American President: “You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.” In a country as varied as ours, there is always going to be someone who is going to get agitated for anything and everything. And if an artist has to go through so much agony every time, then the whole purpose of bringing their creation is lost en-route the cause. And the only instantce in which, we can imagine a piece of art going against the right to freedom of speech is when it inspires or sparks violence or riots against community, as in the case of Charlie Hebdo. And in such a case, the culpability for the violence lies with those committing it and also the ones provocating it, even if it’s an art.
Come on India, let’s be bit appreciative and respect the artist’s creations and glorify their times. It is their constructive designs that would not just throw us into the world stage but also make a significant change in bitter times like these. Let’s not kill their creativity for the sake of gaining cheap publicity and popularity. To reject an art or not, is the choice of the audience. Don’t make us yet again believe in the opinion that, ‘Democracy is going to the dogs’.
“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on a screen.” – Anthony Burgeess