This week, one of India’s iconic actor-filmmakers spoke poignantly of his search for an elusive secular space. Where his new film would have been screened without fear or trouble. In Tamil Nadu, it’s been a different story altogether. “M.F. Husain had to do it and now Haasan will do it...I think Tamil Nadu wants me out,” said Kamalahaasan whose Vishwaroopam was banned by the J. Jayalalithaa government last week (despite the film getting censor board clearance) after some Muslim groups claimed it was offensive towards their community.
Last Tuesday, a single-judge interim order had lifted the ban but a division bench of Madras HC set it aside after the TN government appealed the order, leaving Kamal little option other than to move the Supreme Court. At the time of going to press, Jayalalitha had indicated in a press conference that the film could be screened if an amicable solution was reached with the Muslim groups. So is it all’s well that ends well? Not quite.
Vandana Khare, who staged a Marathi adaptation of The Vagina Monologues and had to face a ban from the Mumbai municipal authorities for it, calls it “cultural terrorism”. “To gag and strangle a person’s creativity is against democracy,” she says. Painter Anjolie Ela Menon says the clampdown on artistic freedom is getting worse by the day. “Apart from religious fanaticism, there is a killjoy sentiment, where certain outfits want to clamp down on anyone having a good time or having fun,” she says. Anjolie faced a similar situation a few years ago. A Mumbai gallery was showing one of her paintings featuring a naked sadhu. “Without understanding the iconography of the kundalini in the painting, the Shiv Sena threatened to create trouble and the painting had to be removed,” she recollects.
In Kamal’s case, it’s been a case of clampdown by the powerful state. “It’s the job of the state to ensure release of a film once it is passed by the censor board,” says filmmaker Sudhir Mishra. Instead, here the state went ahead and ensured it wasn’t released. “All the 32 district collectors together cited the inability to maintain law and order as the reason. It means we are in a constitutional crisis,” says critic Sadanand Menon. Other conspiracy theories have also been doing the rounds. Was the release stalled because the TV rights to the film were not sold to Jaya TV? Did Kamal’s remark about P. Chidambaram as a future PM irk the CM? Or was it the piracy mafia, miffed by Kamal’s dth release plans, that ‘engineered’ the ban? “It’s become murky, there is no clear legal argument, it’s difficult to figure out any logic. It’s complete gobbledygook,” says Sadanand.
Films that got a ban anyway even after the CBFC clearance
That this is happening in a state governed by a former film personality where artistes are made to feel so vulnerable is certainly a piquant situation. “The mutuality between cinema and politics has sometimes worked to the detriment of film people here. For instance, take yesteryear comedian and singer J.P. Chandrababu who was ruined when he took on MGR,” explains Sashi Kumar.
It’s about time the film industry got united to fight such regular intrusions. Last year, filmmaker Rahul Dholakia had suggested that a bill or law should be passed that no film cleared by the censor board will be obstructed. It’s perhaps time to begin working towards that.
By Namrata Joshi with Neha Bhatt and Prachi Pinglay-Plumber
The caption for Fanaa was changed online
Artistic sensitivity ends where religious freedom starts (The Broken Image, Feb 11). Kamalahaasan, who rails against cultural terrorism, must avoid hurting religious sentiments.
K.R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Now that political parties, religious bodies and courts have become the final arbiters to ‘certify’ the quality of films, wouldn’t it be better for the government to wind up the censor board, whose members are reportedly not being paid their honorarium?
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
It's heartening that people from all cross-sections of our society stood with Kamal. Now that the ban on Vishwaroopam has been lifted, the Madras HC should take the state government to task for the troubles it caused him.
S. Balakrishnan, Jharkhand
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
"Jayalalitha had indicated in a press conference that the film could be screened if an amicable solution was reached with the Muslim groups"
My question to all "sickular" or "internet hindus", when was the last time an amicable solution was reached with any non-Muslim groups in similar situations?
Here is a great Review
This seems to be one of the one-dimensional movies usually funded by Military-Industrial Complex in Hollywood. These kind of movies come and go in blink of an eye. Timing of relese of this movie is curious. At the same time we have another one of Military-Industrial Complex product "Homeland" running on our TV networks. US is leaving Af-pak very soon. Are these products meant to soften and perhaps put Indian population in favor of Indian Armys' deployment in Af-Pak ? Meanwhile, Indian Ambassador to US Nirupama Verma is talking about India willingly becoming USs' Asian Pivot. Ofcourse, she is talking in regards to South China Sea, but Af-pak is in Asia too.
There should be a stop to stereotyping males as macho, violent and insensitive ( in this film, evil as well ), while stereotyping women as 'an attractive objective males should yearn for'.
This is harmful to males as a gender.
Because of the failure of the state to protect the irreligious ie. the genuinely secular people and their liberty as individuals.
"Indian secularism consists of branding others communal" - Arun Shourie
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