Just before the beginning of this millennium, Deepa Mehta struggled with the release of her first instalment in the Elements trilogy, Fire (1996) as some Hindutva bullies said its homosexual themes and adultery are against Indian culture and tradition. In the previous decade, at least one film per year had been deemed unfit by India’s callow Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC). While the board consists of a bunch of worst film critics in the world, the damage is borne by the filmmakers alone. But when a film which has been widely released and then deemed unfit by self-appointed censors, it marks a point in history which we can lavishly term as the “murder of creativity.” Only difference: here the damage is shared by the audience.
Rajkumar Hirani’s Aamir Khan-starrer PK is now being considered an anti-religious element as it trashes the idea of God. So they say, the hindutva bullies have the whole plot of the film as a weapon for their cause. While the film has been successfully accepted by audience and critics alike, there is no doubt that it addresses a stark topic that we all seem to have put into saturation for ages now. I, for one, think the film was an average drama that briefly forces its audience to question the religious orientations and practises they follow. The people who are seeking a ban on the film should accept the fact that the film has been widely released and most of the people who watch movies for entertainment and other purposes have seen it. So, their argument is invalid.
While the CBFC has strangely stood in defense of the film, the bullies do not seem to be retreating. The only thing that can be derived from this adamant behaviour of the bullies is that at a time when free speech is being hugely advocated around the world, a priggish squad can snip it using outdated ideologies. Historically, the power of a faction in general has always been questioned. But when free speech is involved, these factions always seem to defy history. Reason? The topic. When Anurag Kashyap refused to add anti-smoking warnings on his film Ugly (2013), he was threatened with halt of its release. Eventually, he had to give in. Cigarettes and smoking are big topics that are debated around the world, and our government earns a lot from its business. Similarly, PK is related to religion and deities, which is even bigger and an object of a highly lucrative business worldwide.
This means that when creativity slithers out of its box and touches topics like religion, its span is numbered. And if it somehow manages to stay, it is murdered, to both dissolve its influence and create and drop another example in the ocean. Creativity cannot grow if it doesn’t influence our surroundings and the way we lead our lives. But this incident will warn some experimenters and then we have to rely on our individual intuitions and imagination to come up with ideas that we unfortunately cannot share. There is no ready solution for this unwarranted censorship which will be cumulative in its process and a grave problem future generations will have to handle. My instincts say they will.