‘Secular’ States of India | Harini Calamur

‘Secular’ States of India

Photo: facebook.com/kamalhaasan.theofficialpage

Photo: facebook.com/kamalhaasan.theofficialpage

When stars collide, there is a tremendous amount of destruction, energy release and new beginnings. It is the law of nature.

When maverick superstar – actor, director, producer, dancer, iconoclast – Kamal Haasan, got on the wrong side of the Tamil Nadu State Chief Minister, Puratchi Thalaivi Dr Jayalalitha Jayaraman – it had implications beyond a normal spat. At stake, is the future of the 100 crore film Vishwaroopam, and release in the key market of Tamil Nadu.  Some Muslim organisations in Tamil Nadu, have been protesting against the release of the film, which they claim offends them. The State of Tamil Nadu, instead of backing Kamal Haasan and his right to free expression, has been throwing its might behind preventing the film from releasing.

Kamal Haasan feels targeted and lashed back.

“When MF Hussain can do it, Kamal Haasan will do it…

I am fed up. I am an artiste. After that, I will have to seek a secular state for my stay… Secular state from Kashmir to Kerala, excluding Tamil Nadu… Tamil Nadu wants me out”

Presumably he meant a state where an artist could exhibit his/her artistry without any threats of violence – either to the artist, or the art or the venue. So here is a glance at the 27 other states where he could live – and their record on upholding artistic freedom

  1. Jammu and Kashmir – Between the Government blocking mobile phones and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – that can severely curtail civil liberties there isn’t much scope for freedom. Furthermore, it is a State where  local writers who call for a ban on literature festivals and opposition leaders, like Geelani, question the need for cinema theaters and declare it being against Muslim culture
  2. Himachal Pradesh – Banned the film Traffic Signal, because the word kinnar was used to describe eunuchs. People from Kinnaur took objection to that. HP had banned the film Kohram, a decade earlier,  because the villain shared a name with the Chief Minister
  3. Uttarakhand – Banned the film Jodhaa Akbar, following protests by Rajput Groups, and it took an order from an apex court to reverse that.
  4. Punjab – Sikh groups in Punjab agitated over Son of Sardar, threatening to prevent its release. In 2011, the Prakash Jha film Aarakshan was banned by the State Government because they thought it would lead to trouble. The Mahila Congress protested against OMG saying it was against Hindu Gods.
  5. Haryana – Home to the khap panchayats. Enough said.
  6. Delhi/NCR – They may not ban films here, but the Central Government sits here. Do you really, as an unapologetic creative person want to be so close to the seat of power ? This is the place from which Emergency was imposed.
  7. Rajasthan – There are khaps in Rajasthan too, who believe that the world can be sorted out by banning girls from using mobile phones, set women – they believe to be witches, on fire. Jodhaa Akbar faced a ban here, Zubeida was banned in just one city – Jodhpur – because it offended the erstwhile Royal family.
  8. Uttar Pradesh – UP is an equal opportunities protest state – every group protests here, effectively. If they spent the time that they spent protesting on fruitful things, the State GDP would go up. Films in trouble – Jodhaa Akbar – for offending Rajputs, , Aarakshan & Aaja Nachle - for offending Dalits,  Hindu groups had an issue with the film Shudra the Rising, and now Vishwaroopam is in trouble for offending Muslims.
  9. Bihar -The Bihar and Jharkhand Motion Pictures Association (BJMPA), in a dispute with the Mumbai based film Federation banned movies starring Bhojpuri Actor Ravi Kishan. Additionally movies such as Aarakshan have run afoul of groups, and some panchayats have just banned ‘obscene songs and film’.
  10. Jharkhand -An under the radar state, but Aarakshan faced a ban here. Like Bihar, it too banned films starring Ravi Kishan.
  11. Sikkim – Doesn’t seem to be any ban on any film in the state. Though a film called Sikkim (a documentary) made by Satyajit Raj was banned for many decades.
  12. West Bengal – Kamal Haasan ji, do you really want to run away from a state run by Jaya Amma to a state run by Mamata didi ? Seriously ? Oh, yes they ban films and free speech here too.
  13. Assam – Apart from ULFA wanting a ban on Hindi films, there  have been sporadic demands to ban specific films. For example, the Bodos wanted the film Tango Charlie banned because they objected to the depiction of their community; there were calls to ban Jism because it starred a porn star.
  14. Manipur – Bollywood films are banned in the state to maintain cultural integrity.
  15. Meghalaya – Seems slightly more open, though the The DaVinci Code was banned here.
  16. Tripura – Doesn’t seem to have banned a film yet. At least none that shows up on Google.
  17. Mizoram – Generally chilled out, but moved the center to ban The Da Vinci Code.
  18. Nagaland – Generally chilled out, but banned The Da Vinci Code.
  19. Arunachal Pradesh – Doesn’t seem to be any ban on any film.
  20. Odisha – The last time a film got taken off here was when the ABVP had issues with the Isha Koppikar and Amrita Arora starrer Girlfriend. They were worried about the impact of the film on ‘morality’.
  21. Chhattisgarh – There don’t seem to be any films banned, but the State of Chattisgarh had some serious issues with citizens exhibiting freedoms. Case in point being Binayak Sen.
  22. Madhya Pradesh – Despite being the largest state in India, it manages to just be under the radar. Yes, they do ban films here – but rather more quietly. It was one of the states that saw a flurry of activity against artist MF Hussain, including a bounty of 20,000 Euros for chopping off his hands.
  23. GujaratParzaniaFanaa, Chand Bujh Gaya have had serious issues in the state from various organisations. At various points of time, to maintain law and order, bans on films, and plays have been imposed.  Plus, it is a dry state.
  24. Maharashtra – The home of the Shiv Sena and the MNS. The state is soft on groups that want to prohibit freedom of expression.  have vandalised libraries, dug up pitches, attacks icons,  threatens to prevent movies from being released.  Movies like Deshdrohi have been banned because they may cause trouble. The film Bombay could not be released, after censor certification, until Shiv Sena demanded cuts were made. Most of it may be posturing, but the losses made are real.
  25. Karnataka – Kannadiga sentiments were hurt with Singham, and release in the state was held up until an offending dialogue was removed. Plus, every time there are issues with Tamil Nadu on the Cauvery water issue, Tamil films get banned.
  26. Andhra Pradesh – Films such as Aarakshan and The Da Vinci Code have been banned to prevent ‘sentiments from being hurt’. But, the bigger fight is not on Hindi or Hollywood films but Telugu films. Cameraman Gangatho Rambabu invited the ire of Telangana activists, another film A Woman in Brahminism was the focal point of protests calling for its ban.
  27. KeralaThe Da Vinci Code was banned in the state. But, in the four southern states and Maharashtra, the link between political parties, film stars, film and TV unions is so strong that censorship works differently. Actor Nithya Menon faced a ban from the Kerala Film Producers Association after refusing to meet producers who went to meet her on a shoot floor. Also accusations of blasphemy, by rising power of extreme right wing Muslim parties, have devastating consequences on not just Freedom of Speech but Freedom.
  28. Goa - Land of the beaches, and beach parties – not so free when it comes to films. The Da Vinci Code was banned in the state, and the local Congress party wanted a ban on Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum.

In short, Kamal Haasan could live in Tripura or Arunachal Pradesh – the question to be asked is if Tamil films have a market there. Or if the market in these States is big enough to support a Kamal Haasan film. The better thing to do is to stay and fight. Despotism has to be challenged, and the challenge cannot be outsourced.

(The views expressed in this column are the writer’s own)

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  • http://Website Abhivyakti

    This is fun to read! Didn’t know there is nothing such as ‘Freedom Of Expression’ in any part of the country !

  • http://Website Indian

    Iam offended by this article….trying to gather some uneducated idiots to take out protests in front of Tehelka’s office…How dare they…???

  • http://Website mjk Shervani

    An interesting analysis of our unity in diversity, we are less than ideal in accepting the freedom of expression. We have limited ourselves to a thinking that freedom of expression means: very economical wears like shorts… etc.
    Conclusion: If you watch closely the development of the Indian society after the late night freedom- ’47 (Amnesiac freedom at mid night ).. Each year, we have new STRAIN of a book virus, Movie virus, Film virus, extremism virus and lately Scam virus.. it spreads to different states like the flu virus. I shall request the union government to develop something like a Influenza vaccine through some guide lines! Violent protests are the last refuge of the incompetent. Never let your morals stop you from doing what is right.
    Yes- a word about the current Indian society, I do not think but I have a touch of a feel : For many societies, the acquisition of wealth does not end their troubles, it only changes them ??
    MJK Shervani.