Saturday, August 13, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Matter of choice

Matter of choice
August 12

''Only the Censor Board can clear the films.''

A multitude of self-appointed censors have imposed a ban on Prakash
Jha's movie, Aarakshan, claiming it has certain 'objectionable' parts
that could hurt the sentiments of dalits and OBCs. Aarakshan deals
with the sensitive subject of caste reservations in India. A special
panel of the Central Board of Film Certification viewed the movie,
found nothing offensive, still suggested a couple of minor changes and
gave it a U/A certificate. Jha made the changes the board suggested
and prepared for the film's release. That was when an array of
'censors' jumped in to raise what are rather ridiculous objections.
Even Saif Ali Khan, a Muslim, portraying a backward caste youth in the
movie has been objected to. Politicians smelling opportunity to
project themselves as defenders of the interests of one caste or
another called for the film's ban. The governments of Punjab, Uttar
Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have banned its screening on the grounds
that it contains objectionable material that could lead to an ugly law
and order situation. Others can be expected to follow.

The Indian constitution guarantees citizens the right to freedom of
speech and expression. This right is already tempered by the Central
Board of Film Certification's censoring of films. And to add to this
we now have an array of individuals, organisations, bodies and
political parties that seem to regard themselves as supra censors. The
right to censor films is vested in the Censor Board alone. No other
individual or organisation, private or public or even
government-appointed has the right to decide whether or not a movie is
suitable for Indian audiences. Thus those governments that have banned
the film are in effect undermining the Censor Board's authority.

Those demanding the banning of movies, books and works of art on the
ground that they are objectionable, insensitive or wrongly represent
the 'truth' would do well to realise that Indian audiences are mature
and capable of evaluating for themselves the merit of these works. We
do not need moral police and self-appointed censors to decide what we
should see and in what form. Those who have objections to Aarakshan
have a choice. They could even make another movie expressing their
point of view. India's constitution gives us this choice. The
self-appointed censors cannot deny us this choice.


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