The year is 2017, India has celebrated 100 years of Bollywood but even after 100 years is the industry still as good as it should be? There are several important questions that need to be answered, the key among them being on balancing artistic freedom with sentiments of the diverse population that the country is home to. The year 2016 gave us the #IntolerantIndia movement, but have things changed a year later? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
The country is still run by (to quote Steve Rodgers) “People with agendas, and agendas change.” A year is definitely too little a time for any drastic changes, but it seems like even a small one has not happened.
This of course, comes just a day after one of India’s top directors Sanjay Leela Bhansali was assaulted on the set of his latest film “Padmavati”. I have mixed views when it comes to a Bhansali movie, his attention to detail is simply stunning but the films are often long, slow and very difficult to sit through. Nonetheless, he does have his fans, and we cannot take away all the great work he has done – four national film awards are a testimony to that.
So what then promoted the “fringe group” to attack him on the set? This question is not simple to answer, since India’s love for politics and religion is a core part of the answer, and the tangled mess that is a result of the larger political game, is very hard to untangle.
The first major task is to understand what the fringe group is, and what sort of connect they have to the locals. The protesters are “allegedly” from the Rajput Karni Sena and created a ruckus following the “alleged” love scene between Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji. They key word here is alleged, we know for a fact that there were protesters, but as for the love scene Bhansali has openly stated that there is no such thing, so why create the ruckus?
It is well know that even though Bollywood creates films based on original stories, they do tend to take liberties with the facts since that is what people want to see. If one wanted to know about the truth one could just refer to the NCERT textbook. The ability to distort facts within the scope of a well known reality is not an easy task, and takes a lot of creativity . There is also a statutory warning before the film, so people are made aware that they are watching a work of fiction, so who gave these “guardians of culture” the permission to stop a shoot?
Given the size of the country, it is understandable that someone or the other will feel ‘hurt’ or ‘offended’ with every work of art (book, film or painting) that makes its way into the public spotlight. Just because someone gets hurt does not mean they have to create an issue, there is an option of not watching the film that few exercise. Instead causing harm seems to be a more apt solution, ironically for a country that became famous for its non-violence movement.
The face of Mahatma Gandhi is printed on every note, hangs in every school, office and station yet people choose the path of violence in order to show their disapproval. I do not see the more intelligent people cry for Salman Khan or Rajinikanth’s retirement because of the sheer nonsense that there movies are (admittedly Salman’s latest works do seem to be a step in the right direction), or the stupidity that comes free with every Sajid Khan film.
None of the intelligent community resort to violence or even despite the insult we have to bear when our dear beloved Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi say something so wonderful that we are forced to hang our heads in shame. Education is a key factor, the well educated know that common sense means liv
e and let live, maybe this should serve as a wakeup call in order to improve the standard of education.
Leaving aside the need for better education, one should also look at the state of politics as a prime reason. India’s politics has long been a game of power, nothing more and it is not likely to change any time soon. There is a reason we refer to the people in power as politicians and not as civil servants, appeasement politics is a seasonal event- the season being elections. Post elections very few actually live up to their promises, and even fewer actually do something about the larger issues that lead to such incidents.
This is not a first, several times in the past films sets have been vandalised and films stopped from releasing (Pakistan is the true source of all evil is what students are taught I believe) and yet there is no solid action from the netas (politicians/ministers) to protect these artists. Of course, standing up for the national anthem in a theatre while littering the streets is perfectly patriotic, while making a work of art is not so, I suppose.
A person can be jailed and shamed for chewing gum during the national anthem, but cannot be for disliking a country and not wanting a person from there to ply his trade in our borders. No one asked – why do we choose Pakistani actors from a creative aspect, maybe if these patriotic souls did they would understand why so, but. Cclearly the fact that they are Pakistani is so blinding (like a headlight at full beam on a national highway at night) that we forget to focus on the essentials – (the need for streetlights).
The time for the film fraternity (Bollywood, Kollywood, Mollywood, Tollywood and the rest) to stand together is nigh, not just to protect themselves from bodily and financial harm, but to most importantly protect the artistic freedom that is now in the recycle bin.
India doesn’t deserve films like PK, Aarakshan, Satyagraha, The Lunchbox, Udta Punjab (I can go on and on, but I guess you get the general idea) it needs them. Parallel cinema needs to come out of the shadows and go mainstream in a big way. Maybe our dear censor board needs to ban commercial movies that are ‘“sanskaari (traditional)”’ and clean and let the raw, rough true India come out.
As Tony Stark (the name of the protagonist in Iron Man) once said – “We need to be put in check” and it is to ensure that art is not for art’s sake, but because the artist has a message he would like to share. Our netas cower behind several vehicles and a small army, why are they scared of actually making a difference?