One may assume that a democracy,with its provisions for freedom of speech and expression,is most conducive to artistic contemplation. In that context,artistes in the city place concept of the freedom of speech and expression under the microscope of their respective trades,and explore the veracity of such assumptions.
Namdeo Dhasal is a veteran poet who is at the forefront of modern Indian poetry and has written voraciously on the Dalit issue. Inspired by Black Panthers in the US,a Black liberation group,Dhasal had started the Dalit Panthers,which had gained notoriety for its radical activism,but dissipated over a decade later.
My first collection of poetry,Golpitha,had created an uproar. The police had taken action against us. I was just resonating the thoughts of the oppressed,us untouchables,who have been trampled over the ages in the name of religion and caste, says Dhasal,adding,We were just criticising the system,because untouchables were being killed. We were only fighting for our fundamental right to live.
There are 800 castes and 6,000 sub-castes in this country. As a nation,we have been through a lot. Ones views should not result in conflagration between communities. I wouldnt want unrestrained freedom,which might annihilate our democracy and drive us to anarchy, says Dhasal.
Mohammed Munim,vocalist and songwriter of city-based band Highway 61 has seen his share of anarchy while growing up in Kashmir. The problem there is different. It exists because people do not want to accept that there is a problem, says Munim,adding,As a band,we did not want to make music for the sake of entertainment. The words had to echo the thoughts of the multitude.
Munim has written a song called Kashmir,which he was initially apprehensive about but went ahead with on receiving support from his bandmates. The song tries to capture the essence of the upheaval. It has been produced as a kit,with sound clips of women wailing,emphasising loss of loved ones, says Munim.
He laments that three out of five citizens in Kashmir are victims in some way or the other. This song tries to capture the pain of victimisation. It is about people like a vegetable vendor who does not care about politics or nations but wants to earn a living for his family yet ends up getting shot in a crossfire, he says.
Munim has faced minor incidents of discrimination but is overwhelmed by the love and creative expression his music has enabled. I found it a lot easier to portray my thoughts on Kashmir outside Kashmir. On a scale of one to 10,I give our country a nine for freedom of expression and speech, he says.
Experimental actor Sarang Sathayes expression has been compromised in an odd way. He echoes the dissatisfaction of indie filmmakers of India. His movie with director Mohit Takalkar,The Bright Day,despite making waves in the most prestigious film festivals abroad,never saw the light of the day in India.
His expression as an actor and storyteller has been affected thus. Sathaye says,The censor board has odd rules. My movie has a 14-second kissing scene and it got an A certification. But Bollywood movies have kissing scenes often and get a U/A certificate because these rules can be manipulated. In this case,it can be manipulated by following the boards dictum of taking cuts during kissing scenes. But a director may or may not want to take cuts. In our case,we didnt. But we cannot complain. We must be louder to be heard.