Here's a question you may want to ask yourself. What has more meaning: Honey Singh's dubious, misogynist lyrics, or a movie that explores the meaning of varieties of fundamentalism, in which a Muslim terrorist kidnaps a liberal Muslim scholar and running in a parallel plot a young homosexual woman resisting her devout father's efforts to force her into an arranged marriage?
For many people, including Raj Amit Kumar, director of the film described above that's titled Unfreedom, the question we asked has really only one reply: the film, of course.
But that's not what Indian censors appear to think, because Unfreedom has received no certificate from the board, which means it cannot be released for viewing.
Apparently, for the censor board, a film like Unfreedom "may ignite unnatural passion in the minds of people."
Do the people of the censor board really enjoy deciding what the people of India should watch and what they shouldn't watch? In a society that is based on the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, does censorship make sense? Can a creator truly create when she or he is worried about the possibility of offending some people? But then what about vulgarity?
Catch Live asked Raj Amit Kumar some of these questions.
Excerpts from the interview.
ON CREATIVE FREEDOM
'A society becomes civilised when it has gained the tolerance to accept any kind of statement'
My views are very simple. Freedom of speech should be an absolute entity for everybody in this country. It does not matter which Independence Day we are celebrating. This is the most basic right in our constitution.
A society becomes civilised when it has gained the tolerance to accept any kind of statement. I used a poem in Unfreedom by Faiz Ahmad Faiz: "Ye daagh daagh ujaalaa, ye shab-gaziida sahar".
This particular poem was written on the eve of Independence Day. We had just gained independence. This is the freedom we fought for. But now it has turned upside down. India was not so fundamentalist. This whole thing started some 29 years ago with the Babri Mosque incident, which is a black chapter in the history of India. It was a political movement. It had hardly anything to do with Hindus and Muslims in general.
The curtailing of human rights is the most disturbing fact of our democratic country today. Almost everything is being banned. I am not excited about this Independence Day because I don't see much freedom in our country today.
As a director, I look forward to absolute freedom for everything. Anyone who is producing a work of art or a creative work should be allowed to express anything. And by anything, I mean anything. There should be absolutely no interference from anybody at all.
'People should decide what they want to see and what they don't want to see'
This is a very broad subject. There is no thin line between art and vulgarity, the difference is only in the eyes of the beholder. Look at Bollywood movies these days and what the censor board passes on a daily basis.
I don't have a definition of vulgarity. People should decide what they want to see and what they don't want to see. Let it be their choice. Why should somebody else decide what people should watch and what they should not watch?
The Indian censor board is garbage. Its panel doesn't know what to do with movies. They have no sense of art and vulgarity. How can a few people sitting on a board, people who have been chosen for god knows what reason, decide for the rest of the country what is good to watch? What are their grounds to pass one movie and deny a certificate to another? If the censor board runs on the basis of the whims and fancies of a few people, it becomes completely intolerant.
'We would not have got the freedom which we enjoy today if we hadn't fought for it. We need to fight again'
This is a big challenge for filmmakers. Directors are never certain that the work into which they put so much energy, time and investment, will pass the clutches of the censor.
My views on censorship the same as the views I presented on freedom of speech. I don't see any reason to self-censor. Artists and writers must express their views more openly. We have to resist what is going on today. We would not have got the freedom which we enjoy today if we hadn't fought for it. We need to fight again. Filmmakers and writers should express their concerns more freely. We should especially write in the directions in which the censor board does not want us to write.