CENSORSHIP BEYOND CENSOR BOARD
something we missed discussing at the apex conclave FICCI FRAMES 2017
The burning of the sets of Padmavati, the next mega film from Sanjay Leela Bansali adds fresh chapter to the book of SOCAIL CENSORSHIP THAT IS BEYOND THE CENSOR BOARD. This follows the Manhandling of Sanjay Leela Bhansali sometime back. It is another of the many episodes in the era of growing intolerance to creative interpretation of history, culture, religion, icons and mythology.
I believe, such act of creative suppression is unacceptable. Does that mean that creative freedom fully justified?
It is important t note that, at FICCI FRAME 2017, the film maker, Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra talks of recommending death of censor Board and restricting it to its real role of certification. Uday Shankar of Star India says, “I am concerned if the Indian creative mind is in a position to respond to the pace of technological change with an equally rapid evolution in its creativity. The key reason for this is of course the censorship that we all have to put up with. As the world gets bolder, our censor authorities seem to be getting more and more conservatives.”
Nevertheless, what about the newly emerging unauthorized illegal social censor boards threatening the creative industry.
We agree that there will always be some outfits, which will see any creative expression differently and sometime threatening to their understanding and level of acceptance. However, their giving a violence led expression to their objections and seeking attention under the pretext of culture, ethics and morality should not be acceptable.
When this happens, the rule of the land is not only questioned and mocked, it paralyses the creative flow. The mob mentality gains uncontrollable momentum. The house is divided if the social platforms provide undesired amplification or help’s discussion and dialogue on the subject. New experts are born with every tweet. Trolling becomes an accepted warfare. Another powerful constraining precedent takes birth in the hyper impotent world of inactive controls. A new governance framework is created. One that is based on fear psychosis and does not have any legal sanctity. However, it seems to be more powerful. .
Should such social groups be allowed to use violence, intimidation, threats and attack people associated with the creative interpretation challenges existing ideas? Should they be allowed to suppress and define the boundaries to creative freedom?
Normally, they are easily excited and follow a mob mentality. They have limited access to information and facts. They are operating based on rumor.
When we challenge that the governing body should only certify and not censor, we are talking of a free-flowing creative freedom without constraint. We believe that the audience reaction is the best judge.
Only in extreme cases, where it believes that exhibiting the film can create law and order situation; the certification board should censor the film by refusing certification. And this decision should be challengeable in the court of law.
In today’s world of information and entertainment, sharing and accessibility, the idea of censor board is really a joke. Even so, are we sure that the country is ready for an open license of creative expression.
‘Mohalla Assi’ showing commercialization of pilgrimage at Varasnai never got a rating. ‘The Mastermind Jinda Sukha’ was cleared by the board but banned by Ministry of Home affairs. ‘Unfreedom’ was denied a rating, fearing it could lead to Hindu- Muslim tension. Why did we not accept freedom of creative expression as a justified excuse?
There have been suggestions of creating an alternate body to pre-scrutinize scripts and interpretations. They are expected to whet the concept and its creative framework for social, cultural and religious acceptability. I find this laughable. There is no guarantee it will be unbiased and acceptable to all the stakeholders and will understand micro regional nuances. Alternatively, will the vast set of social bodies, representing ever fragmented culture and regional micro sensibilities will accept the decisions.
Regional banning has been more rampant. If the film on Padmavati by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, remains true to the rumored storyline. It is highly likely to be banned in Rajasthan. And that will be the story of creative expression and certification board influence.
Is the freedom of creative expression so important that it should be allowed to play with the current accepted, respected, revered social, cultural, historical and mythological frameworks that are integral to the society?
There are no clear framework or guidelines. The boundaries are constantly being redefined. There is no definition of what how far the boundaries can be pushed. It is impossible to define. Every precedent creates a new framework, and every incident raises a new set of questions.
Is the thought of limiting expression and defining tolerance limits in certain cases stupid? Even if Indian entertainment companies can be stopped from such mutating creative expression, there is no way to control it beyond our boundaries.
There are inconsistencies in our approach and reaction.
The industry, including producers, directors, actors and other stakeholders did not help their cause by using controversies as marketing tools. No one could be doubted when common audience seriously consider such incidents a hype creating tools.
It does not matter if it is real or fictional.
It becomes a subject of dispute and disrespect, when the characters are based on an episode revered by people in a certain region. There are many voices that attract justification.
We celebrate and read a book where lives of Shiva and Hanuman are interpreted differently.
It’s Ok; it is in a positive light.
We accept another book, which suggests that Sita was Ravana’s daughter.
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie ensured that the word fatwa was understood by all.
‘Nine hours to Rama’ by Stanley Wolpert, justifying Nathuram Godse’s action was not accepted. ‘Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India’ by James Laine finally survived ban by Maharashtra.
People protest against a simple move like ‘The Nuns story’. Films after films are celebrated for their inaccuracies but brilliant creative rendition. Bajirao Mastani, Jodha Akbar, Kalinga is examples of it. Ashoka- Chakravartim Samrat a very well accepted Tele Serial that ran on Colors is another case, where explanation fills the gap with positive imagery. It’s Okay then.
Coming back to the example of Padmavati, is it not natural to expect that Alauddin Khilji in his dreams, incited with his lust will make love to Rani Padmavati? Is it wrong to have to dream like this? Have we not dreamt these dreams? He after all lusted for Rani Padmavati. He surrounded Chittorgarh from all sides just to win her in a way. Objectification of women is transparent in such a narrative, and it helps building the climax. So, should we really allow the creative expression to be bullied by social censorship?
Rani Padmini is an icon for the people of Rajasthan. She characterizes the Indian idea of It is rumored that Sanjay Leela Bhansali story of Padmavati presents Allahudin Khilji as a romantic king. It is said that instead of lust guided attack of Chittorgah, Bhansali is presenting a story where Khilji and Padmavati were in love. In that situation, should we stop disallowing it as a creative expression?
Rani Padmavati symbolizes honor and Vallor. She defines the sacredness of marriage. She represents and presents the courage, and the extend an Indian woman will go to protect the honor of her family. She commands an iconic status in the area.
It is immaterial that many historians treat Rani Padamvatti as a folklore. It is not important that there is no historical mentions of her. So what if the first poem featuring her was written by Malik Muhammmad Jayasi in 1540 CE, which described the Chittorgarh Seize of 1303 CE.
Will we defend it under creative license if Sanja Leela Bhansali was taking such a creative license while shooting for Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj? The people currently defending Sanjay Leela Bansali would find ways to redefine their interpretation of creative license and become toothless before the tiger. Are we voicing it so loud because Karni Sena seems manageable?
Meanwhile there have been news that a truce has been found between Sanjay leela Bhansali and Karni Sena, where he has agreed to tweak his creative interpretation as per the demand of social censor. It is yet another addition to the long list of social censor winning.
JOH DIKTA HAI WHO SAMJHTA HAI.
What you see and experience is what get imprinted.
Let me take an example. I am now confused about the life of King Ashoka. My references are the various books and the film Kalinga, the TV serial Chakravartim Samrat Ashok and whatever I read in the 2-3 pages devoted to him in the history book or the impressions created by Amar Chitra Katha.
The next generation that is visual dominated will only depend on such video to define their heritage, culture and history.
The next-generation consuming these creative interpretations is expected to treat it as the real representation. The reel and reality will become one. The mythological- cultural- social fabric will get further corrupted and corroded.
Should we allow all this? Is there a way to prevent this from happening? Does everyone have a right to interpret the lives and culture to their understanding and experience? Is that enough reason to disallow such creative expressions?
The problem is the absence of really certified stories of India’s rich cultural heritage that is easily accessible and available. Is that reason enough to allow cultural corruption and mutation under the pretext of creative expression? Maybe. Maybe not.
I still remain confused. Am I selfish and stupid?
How can I want creative freedom, and at the same time protect our rich cultural heritage from being mutated, corrupted and corroded by misrepresentation?
Sanjeev Kotnala with 28 years of corporate experience is the founder of Intradia World; a Brand, Marketing & Management Advisory that focusses in Ideation, Innovation and design thinking. Email firstname.lastname@example.org tweet @s_kotnala web: www.intradia.in www.sanjeevkotnala.com.