There is an urgent need for the film fraternity to come together
in order to protect artists right to freedom of expression
through cinematic means. An eminent panel reached this conclusion
at the 14th FICCI FRAMES while debating on the topic The
Gag Orders: Are we Stifling Creative Expression?
session was moderated by a freedom absolutist, Tehelka Magazine
managing editor Shoma Choudhary. Actor and filmmaker Kamal
Haasan, producer and director Mahesh Bhatt, actor and activist
Rahul Bose and Member of Parliament Lok Sabha Jay Panda formed
Bhatt stressed on the fact that today, the industry lacks
conviction to stand for each and every artist. While the entire
fraternity showed support for Hassan during the Vishwaroopam
controversy, it did not support Kamal Rashid Khan with the
same fervour when the Maharashtra Navnirmaan Sena protested
against his film Deshdrohi.
point raised was whether the artists care enough about freedom
of expression to raise a solid voice against its curbing.
All agreed that censorship of content based on mob sentiment
is not always good. Panda offered that the middle class sensibilities
could be considered a bar in this matter since it has started
becoming vocal and exercising its rights.
To this Bhatt rebutted, If we are to consider the views/suggestion
and sensibilities of a class, we will fall prey to what is
the tyranny of taste. What you and I find aesthetic,
may not appeal to the middle class or some other segment of
Bose pointed out that there is a grey area in the definition
of freedom of expression in the Constitution. We need to safeguard
the definition of this and the exceptions to this law should
be used only in the rarest of rare cases. Art has the power
to make people think and influence them. It could lead to
protests but will also get people to think.
Haasan said, I believe curbing the freedom of expression
or speech is not a dignified thing. I believe that the only
way to stay young is to be immature, so even as a father I
wouldnt try to curb my daughters freedom. Even
as the captain of the ship for my movies, I do not believe
in curbing my actors freedom of opinion or coercing
them to change their opinions.
said, There was a time some 15 to 20 years back when
certain artists preferred to stay away from controversy. Over
time, it has been seen that their work has become what may
be termed safe. This is a very discouraging trend.
Discussing the legal and constitutional aspect of censorship,
Panda offered that it is sad that a Supreme Court ruling allowing
Censor Board to be the authority on certifying movies is defied
by various State High Courts. He also pointed out that there
is a need for some major political and constitutional reforms
as many of the rules and law we abide by have their foundations
in the pre independence era and are redundant or regressive
to the cause of freedom of speech.
Bhatt said, Having a discussion on freedom itself is
a sign that we are not free. I have lived with the Idea of
freedom for 40 years. Today every film maker lives in fear
of mobs outside. We are filmmakers, not underground revolutionaries,
who make movies and not armed to deal with mobs. Also there
is no sense of community amongst artists; 40 years back and
even today, we still do not stand together as a group.
The panel concluded that a pressure group should be created
from within the domain of artistic fraternity that will articulate
the need to change the rules. This pressure group will lead
the change and require political representatives to take the
collective voices to the parliament. More than censorship,
personal discipline should drive the content which is affected
by cultural sensibilities that are represented by the commercial
success of the art.