#Frames2013: Need for reforms to take centrestage

14 Mar,2013

L-R – Jay Panda, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, Kamal Haasan, Chairman of FICCI Media & Entertianmnet Business Concalave (MEBC),Shoma Chaudhury, Managing Editor, Tehelka, Mahesh Bhatt, Film Director,Rahul Bose, Actor


By Kshama Rao


Day 2 of FICCI-Frames started with a session on ‘The Gag Orders: Are we stifling creative expression?’ Managing editor, Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhary moderated the session which had Kamal Haasan – who was recently at the receiving end when his ambitious 90-crore film, Vishwaroopam met with some opposition from certain religious quarters – MP Jay Panda, “liberal intellectuals” Mahesh Bhatt and Rahul Bose.


Ms Chaudhary who admitted to believe in “absolutist freedom” had the panelists talking about the very definition of freedom, the role of art in society, on whether the Indian constitution is robust enough to tackle the various groups and diverse ones at that who get easily offended by any piece of art – be it a book, a piece of music, film or art. Mr Panda talked about how while the constitution doesn’t provide us with absolute freedom it does come close. What worried him were the Supreme Court rulings being defied by high courts and state governments when they should be tried for contempt of court. “The job of leaders is to resist lynch-mobs and not pander to populist measures.”


While Kamal Haasan confessed to have curbed his daughters from always following their minds, he said as a filmmaker, he felt “curbing creativity and freedom is not a dignified thing. It shouldn’t be just about me. It should be about anyone and everyone irrespective of where he comes from who shouldn’t be pushed to a wall like I was.”


Mr Bhatt said that the notion of absolute freedom is still a fantasy. “Right from the time I made Arth, which had people from my own fraternity ganging up against me for making a film that threatened the institution of marriage, the very bedrock of our culture and our being, I am still waiting to be free.”


He added how the “offenders who are most often than not engineered to disrupt and disturb things” ensured that a little fear went a long way and did an irreversible damage to the society. “Timidity has now become a philosophy and every filmmaker lives with that dread of facing a lynch mob outside his door,” he said.


The discussion also veered to demanding a film certification board rather than a censor board. Kamal Haasan observed, “Why should there be representatives from political parties on film certification boards? They are in no way connected with the aesthetics of cinema.”


Mr Panda called for an urgent need for political reforms which could only be put in place with the rising middle class. “Their sensibilities are worthy of emulation and I do see a hope in the middle class who have already begun a movement for change if you go by the protests they recently staged in the case of the rising rape and violence.”


Mr Bhatt rubbished Mr Panda’s trust in the middle-class, who, he saids are interested only in fighting battles they are comfortable with. “They will stand up for a Kamal Haasan but not a Kamaal Khan, a big Hindi film but not a Bhojpuri one.” Mr Bose agreed with him saying, “The middle class will come out in large numbers outside the PM’s house to fight for a rape victim but I wonder if they will be equally passionate about an issue that’s bothering some other part of the country.” Kamal Haasan added that sensibility is not the sole bastion of the middle-class. “It can come from any strata of society, from anyone.”


The rather interesting conversation was ended with Chaudhary calling for everyone to first define the very idea of freedom and if the entire nation was ready to fight for it every time it was threatened by a few offending groups. She also placed the onus on the film and television industry to rise above their roles of mere entertainers and instead bring about social change through cinema.


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