NEW DELHI: Before Priya Prakash Warrier’s by now infamous ‘wink’ in Oru Adaar Love, there was Padmaavat. And before that, Udta Punjab, An Insignificant Man and more.What’s common between the films is that they were all sucked into controversy and even dragged to court before they could hit the silver screen. And what’s heartening is that the courts have come to their rescue, but not before re-igniting the debate on the fundamental right of filmmakers to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the Constitution.
Last year, while allowing the release of An Insignificant Man -- a socio-political documentary on the rise to power of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party -- the Supreme Court had pitched for artistic freedom. It had said, “A film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art.“An artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of expressive mind. The human history records that there are many authors who express their thoughts according to the choice of their words, phrases, expressions and also create characters who may look absolutely different than an ordinary man would conceive of.
“A thought provoking film should never mean that it has to be didactic or in way puritanical. It can be expressive and provoking the conscious or the sub-conscious thoughts of the viewer. If there has to be any limitation, that has to be as per the prescription in law.”
Similarly, the apex court had rejected a petition seeking a stay on the release of director Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar, which deals with the imposition of Emergency in 1975 by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Then too, the court had said that artistic expression was within the limits of law.