Politics over films: How censorship and public outrage hindered artistic freedom over years

As the hullabaloo over a ‘wink’ in a Malayalam film track subsides on the Supreme Court’s intervention, Amit Agnihotri, Pushkar Banakar, Kanu Sarda and Meera Suresh look at how censorship and public o

Published: 25th February 2018 12:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th February 2018 09:51 AM   |  A+A-

Priya Prakash Varrier in 'Oru Adaar Love' teaser. (Photo |Youtube)

As the hullabaloo over a ‘wink’ in a Malayalam film track subsides on the Supreme Court’s intervention, Amit Agnihotri, Pushkar Banakar, Kanu Sarda and Meera Suresh look at how censorship and public outrage have come in the way of artistic freedom down the years

NEW DELHI:Politics over film bans has been an integral part of the country’s social discourse as parties take positions that suit them at a particular point of time.The most recent example was that of Padmaavat, which infuriated the Karni Sena, the self-appointed conscience keepers of the influential Rajput community. The outfit threatened to block the film’s release, alleging that parts of it portrayed Queen Padmavati in a derogatory manner.

As BJP governments in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana first banned the film and then floundered over a Supreme Court directive asking them to ensure its safe release in local theatres, the Congress slammed the ruling party over its inability to protect the freedom of expression, pandering to Rajput sentiment for political gain and trying to deflect public attention from the failures of the central government.

Last year, it was the Congress that was very concerned over the release of Indu Sarkar, which revolves around the life of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency in 1975. So touchy was the Congress about the film that its Mumbai unit asked the censor board to hold a special screening before the official release to ensure the former Prime Minister was not shown in a negative light. The grand old party even questioned the timing of the film which, when released, did not create any ripples.

The episode recalled another controversial film, Aandhi, which was banned by Indira Gandhi in 1975 and was later released when the Janata Party came to power in 1977.Yet another controversial film, Kissa Kursi Ka, a spoof on the Emergency, was banned by the then Congress government.

Last year, there was a bitter war of words between supporters of the central government and the opposition parties over the allegedly controversial dialogues related to GST in the Tamil film, Mersal. Tamil Nadu BJP chief TN Soundarrajan had demanded deletion of all the scenes related to GST, saying they conveyed a wrong impression. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, too, had then tweeted against the controversy.In 1995, the Hindi film, Bombay, made by celebrated director Mani Ratnam and set against the backdrop of the 1992 Mumbai riots, faced protests as the Shiv Sena took objection to the portrayal of its chief, Bal Thackeray.

A decade ago, the 2005 film, Water, which was one of a three-part series made by Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, invited the wrath of right-wing groups as well as the Shiv Sena.In 2013, the then Akali government in Punjab banned the film, Sadda Haq, as the movie was based on the separatist Khalistani movement. The Supreme Court had later overturned the ban.Politicians are often guided by electoral concerns as people of various communities fail to grasp a filmmaker’s point of view. Creative people, too, at times fail to factor in public sensitivities related to a subject.


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