Recently I walked out of a comedy show because in the name of “roasting”, I was being targeted for my skin tone. I had gone there to promote my film, but the jibes were prejudiced, and neither original nor funny. To begin with, the atmosphere of the “comedy” had already been vitiated by a flood of rape jokes. All in all I had a visceral reaction and felt suffocated by the goings on. Even after I got back home, I was deeply troubled and wondered about the role of mass culture in a democracy and who the “masses” are.
I don’t believe in censorship, but then I do wonder about how free should free speech be? Is free speech just about defending the right to offend? Offend, yes, but we must ask to what end the offence and who benefits from it. In a complex democracy like India, these are basic questions that everyone should ask.