Hate Speech Or Character Assassination Videos Don’t Anger Us, But ‘Padmavati’ Does

Posted by Vipul Gupta in Culture-Vulture, Politics, Society
November 28, 2017

“Water”, “Black Friday”, “Final Solution”, “Angry Goddess”, “Aligarh”, “Unfreedom”, “Udta Punjab”, “Lipstick under My Burka”, “Mersal”, and many more.

The issue with these films isn’t that they are vulgar or obscene, but that some people might get “offended” by the portrayal of certain characters in these films. The latest in this list is Padmavati, and this controversy around it has again shown that our system’s democratic values are so fragile, that they can be questioned even on the basis of mythical legends.

The very fact that a “leading” news channel airs an interview in which rewards are offered for the beheading of public personalities, and four Chief Ministers from both of the big parties have helped propagate this message of violence and hatred, seems to me to indicate that the state itself has been corrupted by anti-social elements. In fact, to be more politically correct, the political groups are exploiting the fragile nature of our system’s democratic values for mere political gains.

People who probably didn’t even know who Padmavati was, are calling her their mother today, objecting that Deepika’s portrayal of the film is a distortion of history. These people are asking for banning a movie, when a majority of them recently shared a video with the title “Hardik Patel sex scandal” – judging the character of the young leader Hardik, and not of the one who invaded his privacy by surveilling his private room. If such things are morally acceptable in Indian culture/society, if videos promoting character assassination and if videos promoting hate speeches are acceptable, if the ruling parties can rewrite the history we read to support their “glory”, then why should an artistic piece (with the disclaimer that the portrayals in the movie are based on imagination), which may or may not distort the already blurred history, be in the ambit of the censorship debate?

A plain and simple thought everyone must ponder upon:

If my unconfirmed ancestor, who used to live hundreds of generations ago and may not even have existed, is brought into question – or maybe filmed in a way that I wasn’t told about earlier – should I hit the streets, or run to media houses threatening to cut the nose of the performing artist? Or should I just first watch the movie and know more about this (fabricated) biography on this ancestor of mine, and lodge a formal protest in the form of writings and debates?

So, people who are saying it is about the pride of Rajputs – protecting the pride of your ancestors is legitimate, but if you are inciting violence to protect the pride of an ancestor who may or may not have existed – that too, 800 years ago – you are plain stupid.

You wouldn’t even be able to name your great great grandfather!

These movies like “Padmavati”, “Sexy Durga”, and “Nude” (which were recently removed from the International Film Festival of India) might not see the light of day today in the form of public screenings, but Mrs Irani and the authorities in question have to understand that this unstoppable chain of banning and censoring movies for fear of mob action needs to stop. Not just because in the past these decisions aiming to pacify the majority citing similar reasons, like the beef ban, have only incited this majority, increasing their confidence and ability to disrupt day to day life; the impact being a tremendous increase in beef-related lynchings. But also because this is the era of the internet, and movies like “Udta Punjab” have already created a wonderful example, showing that this lust of yours for censoring is busted with just a click, like a needle puncturing a balloon.

On the contrary, what needs to be done is neutralizing these pseudo-democratically empowered mobs. The state tools like sedition and national security act were constitutionalized to help the state neutralize them, and not to cage Kanhaiyas, Chanderskhars, and Gogois. The right use of these state tools will help citizens get free access to the fundamental rights they were guaranteed by the constitution.

Meanwhile, what have we lost amid this media hijack by Padmavati?

Thousands of farmers protesting in Delhi, using innovative banners and dummies to show Delhi how more than thousands of them suicide every year due to their helplessness.

An air quality index of 300 being accepted as the new normal in the entirety of north India.

An ordinance by the Rajasthan government protecting babus and restricting media reports against them until the government gives a go ahead.