Thursday, August 18, 2011


Banning movies is futile and undemocratic...

Cinema has always been the reflection of the society that we live in. So if fifties saw scores of movies on the independence struggle, the sixties saw lot of movies based on class struggle, black marketing and corruption. The seventies and eighties saw the evolution of the angry young man who questioned and fought the clutches of the licence quota raj. The decade of nineties saw the evolution of new liberalised India. But unlike yesteryears, where cinema was a medium to showcase reality, which its audience accepted wholeheartedly, there has been a growing intolerance over cinema viewing, particularly the ones which are based on politically sensitive issues. Over past a few years, every year a couple of movies are made that create political upheaval.

Since very beginning, cinema has been being closely associated with politics. In many cases, it has been observed that politicians have been leveraging movies and movie-stars for their political campaigns. In addition to that, over the years, even actors and actresses have been opting for political careers, owing to their huge popularity. But even after such strong integration, moral policing and intolerance have been increasingly growing and at times the reasons are out-rightly trivial and hilarious.

Recently, many political parties have voiced their concern against the latest release “Aarakshan” and further forced theatres to stop screening of the same. So much so, that a few states have even banned the movie. Interestingly, ban was imposed on the movie, the day of its release and by those people who didn’t watch the movie even once! This self styled ban came into action even after clean chit by Censor Board, and Madras and Bombay High Courts. The release date of the movie was announced a couple of months back with teasers (which spoke volumes about the plot) running all across various television channels, since last two months. Thus, it makes little sense for protestors to ask for ban after the release. If political parties, on any ground, had any kind of reservation with the movie, they should have approached the courts before the release date itself, and not after the release. Such acts though earn lot of free publicity for such movies, but then it becomes a big deterrent for movie makers to take up topics which are of national relevance and often resulted to political irrelevance.

In today’s world, the entire practice of banning a movie does not hold any logic and is out-rightly undemocratic. And once the Censor Board has found nothing objectionable, to stop screening, is also against the fundamental rights to express. Moreover today’s youth is exposed to myriad mediums of information and is mentally attuned to cinema based on bold topics and is relentlessly talking about societal transformations, in all forums – be it real or virtual. When one has limitless access to Internet and all forms of uncensored content, shows on television where all forms of contents are available in the name of reality shows that are aired anytime (just not during prime time hours), penalising just cinema is discriminatory.

And there are numerous examples of meaningful cinema which have faced the maximum wrath of blatant political hooliganism. A movie called – Water that tried questioning the atrocities on widows, faced political resistance. Even Gangajal that exposed the inhuman treatment done on the prisoners in Bihar came under huge political tension. Even “Rajneeti” came under the scanner of political moral police, and many theatres delayed its screening fearing vandalisation of property. Another movie, Black Friday, whose plot was based on Mumbai blasts and Parzania – plotted on 2002 Gujarat riots – saw itself under huge trouble post release. Likewise, 1947: Earth that portrayed the society during partition - was boycotted across a few states in India. My name is Khan and The Last Lear also faced similar threats and vandalism.

Even if the movie is against populist belief or conventional practices, banning of the same becomes futile, as now a days pirated versions are available freely in the market. And interestingly no one does anything about the same. In fact, a movie should be allowed to portray its stance freely and should rather ignite debate and discussion in society rather than restricting what the society should see. Any movie that is ahead of its time, would surely meet mindset challenges, but violent protests and blanket ban is no solution. Movies for that matter are meant to open window and bring in paradigm shift in the society and not act like mere mode of entertainment, always. Particularly, in developing countries like ours, where there is mass scale illiteracy, cinema has been a great effective medium not just for entertainment but to educate masses in its own way.

Cinema has the power to bind all, and bring in revolutions, instead there is a continuous attempt to jag issue based cinema in such a manner that we keep producing hackneyed and neutral films and not movies that could inspire and trigger a new and progressive thought process.


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