ByÂ Neelabjo Mukherjee:
They say today that we live in an open society. We have the freedom of speech and expression; we are supposed to be our own masters; liberated and broad minded, receptive to anything that’s out of the box, innovative, quirky and fresh. Modern women ride cars and bikes, they play cricket and ball; they unabashedly drink, smoke, dance and prance around celebrating their much deserved freedom. Men as they say were never really restricted or bounded but they had to adhere to certain implicit rules of society. But a man of today doesn’t really care about stereotypes. He is as comfortable in a cricket stadium as he is inside a beauty salon. Society in that sense has truly progressed because urban men or women find the thought of sticking to stereotypes as extremely suffocating. They are ready to break out of their zones and venture towards the path that is unchartered, untrodden– uncertain about the odds that might impede their journey.
But although a section of the youth that we address through our paper is indifferent to age old norms and medieval mindsets, there is another section of society which remains as judgemental and critical as ever before. This section of the society continues to thrive on gossip, questions anything that is out of the box and remains as intolerant as ever when it comes to breaking new ground. This mindset percolates down to our administrators who often exercise their powers to curb, ban or prevent avant-garde (read experimental) forms of art and craft to thrive within the realms of Indian society. Moral policing has become a part and parcel of Indian society although the country is supposed to be a true-blue democracy. The leaders of the masses are much respected and capable men or women chosen by the masses from amongst their own. This is not Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy where the general public and their rights were crippled by the arms of the dictator. There is a strange dichotomy that prevails in society where a section of the masses has broken free while the other strictly adheres to dogmatic concepts and ideals.
Quite remarkably controversial, experimental and avant-garde forms of art and cinema have still managed to thrive in recent years despite the bans and stringent rules of censorship in the country. This has been fortunately made possible by the Internet through which the youth has access to books, movies, videos and other works of art which have been prohibited from being sold, screened or exhibited within the realms of this “democracy”. Prohibition in the country is however not only limited to the works of art but it extends to plenty of renowned authors, artists or filmmakers who have been forced to leave the country for daring to portray something that questions our “desi” sensibilities. This is in spite of the fact that the youth and the intelligentsia of this very country access YouTube and other websites to access or rather pour over these prohibited forms of art. While the public (read youth) remains interested, their representatives, in various positions of power seem equally disinterested in promoting these experimental forms of art. There is always the tendency to play it safe and there is apparently nothing safer or easier than banning art and the artist who are only blessed with creativity and neither the manpower nor political acumen to question such decisions. In spite of having an impressive fan following or an extensive number of admirers, these talents have to reside abroad and languish in oblivion.
With respect to the widespread change in today’s society one cannot help but feel that it is perhaps time for our administrators to gauge the pulse of the youth who are liberal and willing to embrace the avant-garde and experimental instead of sticking to stereotypes. The readers may disagree but it’s perhaps high time that the men in power grow up and liberalise these stringent and obsolete laws of censorship, in order to stay in sync with the future of this country. The future of this country resides in the hands of the youth and it’s time to follow their “awaaz’’–the awaaz which wants to be heard desperately in today’s age and time.