As an actor, freedom of expression to me would mean being able to express myself as naturally and as normally as possible in any given situation or circumstances without restricting myself to any direction or pattern.
As an artiste who is still very new to the industry, I am very hungry and greedy. I want to have more control over myself, as well as how I am being projected through my character in the film. I was blessed to have Sabbir sir (director Sabbir Khan) and Sajid sir (producer Sajid Nadiadwala) as my first director and producer as I was able to imbibe valuable knowledge needed to better my craft. I learn everyday, whether it’s a new dance move, a new way to kick or do a flip, or anything else about the craft. I just want the freedom to work to my full potential and the rest I leave to my director as he sees the bigger picture.
During Heropanti, I was lucky and blessed enough to work with technicians who knew of my plus and minus points. We had a great action director who allowed me to give my inputs and express my best skills in the action scenes. This freedom of expression, enabled me to give my best and I guess that’s why the action in the film was appreciated. I truly believe that together everyone achieves more.
One talks about the Censor Board rules suppressing freedom of expression. Since we are a very conservative civilisation, so clearly anything sexual is a target.
On the other hand, the freedom my art gives me is something I cherish. It allows me to express my innermost feelings. As a person who is shy by nature in real life, I am able to express myself through my work. I have the liberty to be as open as I would like to be and reveal facets of my personality that I may be hesitant to do in real, which is great.
The consequence of fame, however, is suppression of freedom of an actor’s personal life. It’s very natural for there to be a certain curiosity about the lives of stars which may restrict freedom. But I love my fans and am grateful to them for all the love they show me.
— As told to Geety Sahgal
Aditi Rao Hydari strongly feels that one should not allow our fears to suffocate our talent
As an actress, freedom of expression to me means the power to be able to choose…because that is your unique voice. If you ask me the aspect of my work space where I would like to have more freedom, I feel media-built images coupled with PR machinery building unreal and false people, suffocates creativity. I wish I had the power to break these preconceived notions built up by them.
Coming to freedom of expression in films, though every step is an uphill task, I try in my own way to make my films better. We should be free to create masterpieces of cinema without allowing our fears to suffocate our talent.
One film where I had total freedom, which I think also worked in the film’s favour, was Ye Saali Zindagi. That is because director Sudhir Mishra is unafraid. He is so sure of his own strength and eye for talent that he fought tooth and nail to cast me in the film. Despite the fact that I was new, he gave me complete freedom to play Arunoday Singh’s wife Shanti. My story made it to an Amul hoarding, I got a Screen award, besides critical acclaim and box office success. It was too exciting!
Should the Censor Board have the authority to dictate to film actors what they should adhere to? According to me, the censor board should categorise films. Moral policing is so unnecessary. Artistes make the cultural fabric of a country and freedom of expression is a basic right that everyone should have.
Intimacy on camera, foul language, and smoking are things that should fall under categorisation and not under censorship. We can watch double innuendo dialogues and suggestive dance moves and violent action sequences but isn’t it far healthier to watch couples kiss, (rather than thrust their pelvis) or people abuse each other (rather than blood and gore) when they are angry and have a character smoke a cigarette. If people think that they must do everything that actors do on screen then they must also treat their women like Shah Rukh Khan does in his films and be like real heroes!
If you ask me whether I have faced any suppression of freedom in my personal life as an actor, then I would say that people in the industry expect you to follow the stereotypes from the kind of work that you do and fit into their sometimes myopic structures and ideas.
But I can’t be shackled, so it’s challenging yet fun to prove them wrong.
Fearlessness and the knowledge that the art is greater than you are is what artistic freedom is all about!
— As told to Geety Sahgal
Film-maker Abhishek Chaubey wants respite from the Censor Board’s dictat and audiences’ backlash
Cinema today projects the growth of our nation. Not only has there been cross-border recognition of Indian film-makers, the growing metro culture in India is taking Indian cinema to a more appreciable global audience. On Independence Day, not only can we celebrate the nation’s freedom, we can also commemorate 67 years of liberated film-making.
Freedom of expression is the most important tenet of democracy and I think democracy is as much about the voice of the majority as it is about the voice of the individual. All artists, including film-makers have the right to create and express. And they have a right to be protected from people who get offended by their creations. While we are an independent nation, we are still on our way to democracy in the film-making sector. Audiences haven’t embraced true democratic values when it comes to movies. Simple dialogues which are in use in certain parts of the country are considered offensive when shown on screen.
For my films — Ishqiya and Dedh Ishqiya, I have been been subjected to a lot of criticism for the content used. Politics came in the way of a lot of my works. This happens because while we are a diverse country and at the base of it all, we are very divided too. Every film offends one or the other community. People with vested political and financial interests create an atmosphere where it becomes difficult for film-makers to create realistic movies. Film-makers become prime targets because they are not protected by any statutory law. We are not part of a government body, neither are we part of a corporate house, hence we are left to our own devices. The Censor Board should realise that editing and deleting scenes wouldn’t serve its purpose as the essence of the work one creates, remains despite the cuts. It should let the audience decide a film’s fate.
From a film-maker’s perspective, I want the audiences to be more tolerant. This is the country where I was born and raised and I can only make films about the people of my country and I expect to be understood. The stories I tell are inspired by the people I grew up with. I love my country and I consider everything that I do to be patriotic. It comes from a deep love for my people and that in itself is a form of patriotism.
— As told to Kaushani Banerjee
Producer Guneet Monga hopes that censorship will eventually make room for self-regulation
While it is true that freedom of expression in film-making should be encouraged, we have to realise that we don’t operate in a vacuum and that our actions result from, and also shape the general social expression. Complete freedom, in the broad sense, is an elusive concept as any topic that doesn’t even marginally conform to norms and set beliefs is bound to receive backlash from groups with vested interests. However, that shouldn’t be a deterrent to make films you truly believe in as long as you are responsible in handling sensitive topics.
For me, as a producer, freedom of expression would mean having the liberty to work on a subject that I truly want to without the fear of acceptance by certain social and political bodies. Like many of my colleagues in the industry, I’m constantly challenged while putting together a project with the right team including financiers and key talent and ultimately finding the right release window and platform.
The recent guidelines by the Central Board of Film Certification reflect a certain stand taken by the new management. However, personally, I think more leeway should be provided with respect to censorship as that would truly reflect the evolving nature of society we live in. Besides, anything that is banned will be available on the internet and will be consumed more because of the censorship it faces. But that’s not to say that anything and everything should be allowed. We just need to have more faith in self-regulation with broadly defined guidelines.
When we talk of freedom, as a producer, I strongly feel, that there should be no restrictions to shoot anywhere and with anyone once the necessary permissions have been taken beforehand. Also, unlike in European countries, we have a lot of barriers to cross as far as obtaining those permissions are concerned and that is something where I feel, more autonomy should be given.
In the past to too,we have had films that dealt with bold themes. The only difference is that today, such things are being highlighted and noticed more and that is why it is being discussed more. But we have seen more film-makers taking up subjects that are edgy and within the censorship parameters.
– As told to Farida Khanzada
Lyricist Manoj Muntashir hopes for an industry that is allowed the freedom to express
Every expression may not make everyone comfortable, but that doesn’t mean they are not worth expressing. As a lyricist and writer, I don’t believe in writing sensational stuff just to grab attention, but if I have a thought which must be expressed, I will not suppress it for the fear of a backlash.
I feel art and cinema are becoming scapegoats to fix up power-agendas in our country. Radha has been the epitome of beauty and womanhood in our culture, but when director Karan Johar uses the name in one of his songs (Radha from Student Of The Year), we are ready to attack him with all our might.
It’s a pity that there is not enough freedom to express one’s ideas. Just a couple of months back, I felt the heat when my song Galliyan from Ek Villain became popular. Just when I was beginning to enjoy its success, I started getting hate mails, threat calls and abusive social media posts for using the word “Madina” in the song. A line in the mukhda goes as, Yahin mandir aur Madina. It is a thought of reuniting two poles with love but certain lunatics thought I was disrespectful to Madina. I had a tough time dealing with such insanity.
Compared to the earlier times, our hands are more tied up than ever. Our pens are chained, and those chains are invisible and don’t make noise any more. We work for a commercial medium. Producers and music companies don’t expect us to raise an alarm or do anything which may have socio-political backlash. They just want business. Bollywood me sirf teen cheezein chalti hain — Entertainment, entertainment aur entertainment. Nothing else matters.
However, having said that, I have no objections to sensitive censorship. Of course, no institution has got the authority to dictate poetic expressions, but since our work impacts millions, I humbly accept the existence of a body which can evaluate the social repercussions of our work. If anything is artistically a masterpiece but socially a poison, it is okay to kill it. Life can’t be compromised for art.
I have strong hopes that the real freedom of expression will take over in the years to come. It wouldn’t just remain as Articles 19-22 in our constitution and will have practical implications as well. A nation is speechless without its writers, so allow us to speak.
— As told to Priya Adivarekar
Creativity vs deadline
Scriptwriter Zeishan Qadri wants freedom from deadlines set according to whims and fancy of stars.
As a writer, who is considerably new in the film industry, I often find myself in the clutches of one or the other issue – the most common being the deadline to deliver the stories as per the dates of the stars working in the movie.
As a creative person, I wish for freedom from the culture of working according to the whims and fancies of superstars. Apparently, even big production houses and studios have to succumb to the dates provided by the superstars starring in their films. I have come across situations when writers are told that the film will go on floors in four months as that’s the date given to them by the actors and thus the writing has to be complete in or before that time.
The problem is not to stick to a deadline but to meet the expectations of the producers in limited time. They want a script with the finesse of films like Paan Singh Tomar or Gangs of Wasseypur that have been acclaimed critically and are remembered for the well-researched plot and tightly packed story. To attain that, one requires to spend time in research. It requires a writer to travel to the place about which he is writing, talk to the locals etc. Or, in some cases, meet the people on whom the characters are based. All this isn’t an easy job.
Additionally, monetary constraints come into the picture as well. Sadly, writers in India are still poorly paid compared to the international standards. While the situation has bettered in the last few years, it needs to improve more. The struggle of the writers for money as well as time seems like an unnecessary issue and hinders creativity. The people in the industry need to realise that good work needs appreciation, both in terms of encouragement and financial incentives.
Besides, there are other concerns too, like the interference of the Censor Board. Very often, things that are censored or cut are very intrinsic to the plot. In my opinion, the main problem lies in the selection of people in the Censor Board committee. Sadly, most of them aren’t from a creative background and thus fail to understand certain things. We need freedom from a committee like this and hope for an organisation that understands our (creative people’s) plight.
— As told to Priyanka Bhadani
For me freedom is freedom of expression. You have to be able to be yourself
and express yourself freely. Moreover being confident about the person that you
are and to be able to be that is what freedom is (for me).
— Deepika Padukone, actor
Ours is a democratic country and freedom is about enjoying and expressing yourself freely. I would vouch for ‘do what you feel like and not be answerable beyond a point’. That is what freedom is in today’s time. You are the master of your own destiny and should be allowed to do what you want.
— Arjun Kapoor, actor