The Indian film industry has seen a turbulent year in terms of both earnings and production.
Throughout 2017, the film industry has observed that their audience hasn’t exactly been welcoming owing to the characteristic jumping to conclusions. Based on snowballed assumptions, audiences (and even those in authority) have been hostile to the industry. But could the source of this hostility be traced to the Hindutva agenda?
It is not just the film industry, but also the entire society as a whole that is facing suppression. Any critical voice is being suppressed — people are openly being killed, rationalists are shot dead. If you think about it, film censorship is just a small part of the larger spectrum of suppression.
Even so, in just the past couple of months, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s S Durga and Ravi Jadhav’s Nude both saw trouble with their screenings at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). The Smriti Irani-led Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) pulled the plug on these films though they were selected by the IFFI jury to play in the Indian Panorama section.
For the past few months, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is struggling to see a release. I have not seen the film, and could be wrong but its just possible that the people who are ranting against the film may even like it if they saw it. I believe that sati and johar are not glorious chapters in our history, but a shameful patriarchal practice where women were either collectively brainwashed or drugged into being murdered on their husband’s funeral pyre. Does Bhansali show this for what it was? I doubt it so while I fully uphold his right to make and release the film of his choice, I am not buying a ticket unless he is a much braver man than I anticipate.
But how does one explore their creative capabilities and through films, discuss subjects that need a space for conversation?
In the world of fiction it is a lot easier, because you can construct your story to be as subtle as you want. You can do what some Iranian filmmakers did when religious control was tight. They managed to make effective cinema that reached people and even managed to sneak past the authorities.
On the other hand, it is really difficult for documentaries that are more upfront. You are talking to real people and describing real situations and you can’t afford to beat around the bush; you cannot ignore what is going on as ground reality.
Personally, I work as if the situation is not what it is, in the hope that it will change at some point. I hope that the country will not remain frozen in fear and mindless consumerism, and that people will wake up.
I’m just hoping people won’t accept all this for very long. Hate is being spread at the grassroots level, and that is very dangerous. It is not always about what the government is doing itself, but about the impunity that hate mongers feel. This government has allowed its rank and file supporters to do anything at all and get away with it.
We have majoritarian bigots in power as well as an international financial system that will sell anything for money, including war and terror.
So it is not just the cinema, but the mental well-being of the people on this planet that needs to be nursed back to health.
A turbulent year...
The Indian film industry has seen a turbulent year in terms of both earnings and production. Movies across languages and genres have faced the unwarranted wrath of the audience and the government-controlled censor board.
It has been over a year that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati is struggling for a release. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s S Durga and Ravi Jadhav’s Nude both saw trouble with their screenings at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) after the Smriti Irani-led Information and Broadcasting Ministry pulled the plugs on two films that were selected by the IFFI jury to play in the Indian Panorama section.
Tamil language film Mersal also found itself in muddled waters for a two-and-a-half minute sequence in the movie questions the effectiveness of the newly introduced Goods and Service Tax. In the scene, he asks why a country with a GST rate of 28 percent is not able to provide quality healthcare to its citizens.
Anand Patwardhan is a documentary filmmaker who has explored subjects like the rise of religious fundamentalism, sectarianism and casteism in India. Bombay: Our City (Hamara Shahar) (1985), In Memory of Friends (1990), In the Name of God (Ram ke Nam) (1992), Jai Bhim Comrade (2011) have won him national and international awards. Anand is a vocal critic of the Hindutva ideology.