The latest victims of the attack on creative freedom are two regional films that have been pulled by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry from the government-sponsored International Film Festival of India without taking into consideration the opinion of the fest’s jury.
Marathi film Nude and Malayalam movie S Durga, dropped by the centre from IFFI, were selected by the jury, which ironically is appointed by the ministry.
Besides these two movies, there is Bollywood film Padmavati, which has been attacked without fail this year. From director Sanjay Leela Bhansali being slapped, to its set being vandalised to now threats of ban and more violence.
Condemning the treatment meted out to these works of art, actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar at an event on Tuesday said that the audiences’ intelligence should not be underestimated and they should be shown films that encourage them to understand culture and think.
“It’s not about just those two films or Padmavati. This has happened with many films in the past and every time it has happened, I have spoken openly about it that it should not happen. I am totally against anything being banned. I genuinely believe that we should stop treating our audiences as children.”
“We should allow them to grow. Expose them to different types of ideas. Allow them to understand culture and think. It is important for the development of any nation that there are viewpoints, that are not always in agreement with the majority,” Farhan added.
The actor spoke at the launch of director Karan Anshuman’s book Kashmir Nama. Farhan and Karan have collaborated on projects like Bangistan and Inside Edge.
Slamming the violence that Padmavati has been subjected to, the actor said that it is the responsibility of CBFC and the government to protect films and filmmakers.
“In cinema, there is no such law that if a film releases, come what may you have to watch it. You have the freedom to boycott the film. To spread the message to boycott the film but what you don’t have is the freedom to threaten someone with grievous bodily harm, or break someone’s theater or hurt someone in any way. And unfortunately, that’s where the line hasn’t been drawn properly.
“We as a film industry are dependent on the CBFC to tell us what is okay and what is not okay. We have accepted that. Beyond that, it is up to the I&B ministry and the government to protect the films and filmmakers. That’s what I have always believed and that’s what I believe in case of these three films,” said Farhan Akhtar.
In the case of Nude and S Durga, it is the I&B ministry that stifled creative freedom by the dropping two films from IFFI. So, where do artistes go in this case? According to Karan, “We fight, protest and don’t take that lying down and we stand up for our creative rights.”
After listening to the director, Farhan joined in, saying that it is also important for the film fraternity to raise voice every time there is an attempt to stifle freedom of expression.
“This has happened in the past. Films that have been banned have gone to the tribunal and they got cleared. The process might have been painful and long but I think it will happen. It’s the time for the film fraternity to come and stand together on these issues. Unfortunately, we also have ourselves to blame.
“We can’t keep pointing at others. There has been a lack of unity when it comes to these things. We get scared only when it is our film. This is very unfortunate. We are a really small industry, so if we don’t come together then no one will do for us,” he said.