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How mature is the Indian Audience?

How mature is the Indian Audience?

By Soumyajit Kar

Edited by Anandita Malhotra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist

Cases about an enraged mob attacking the screening of a particular film or a group lobbying for banning some movie isn’t all that isolated in India. Recently, ‘Haider’ sparked a lot of controversies for depicting a delicate background which according to a lot of critics is highly misrepresented and flawed. However, they didn’t go to the extent of banning the film in India. But on the downside, if we enumerate films which have in the past faced such negative publicity, the list is going to be quite long- Ramleela, Vicky Donor, Viswaroopam, Bandit Queen, Kama Sutra: A tale of love, The Da Vinci Code, Jodha Akbar, never-ending. Usually films are banned in India on grounds of explicit sexual content or depiction of social movements with frivolity or extreme violence. I choose to not comment on the last one, rather just concentrate on films which have kindled contentious reactions on sexual and social grounds.

Indian culture or whatever the term encompasses in inclusion with all its diverse subheads, has been fairly unanimously open about sexuality and adaptation to foreign cultural elements, which in fact is a strong contributing factor to our sprawling cultural width and depth. Be it the temple architecture or ancient treatises we have been forerunners in accepting sex as an integral element of life which resulted in transforming the stigma attached, to wonderful forms of art. The problem according to many historians and Indologists, started as a side effect of nationalism in India. Towards the end of nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century jingoistic sentiments ran high throughout the nation which so solidified and made rigid our idea of our own race that it made our culture absolutely impermeable to accepting subtle truths. The nationalism practiced in India took the form of ‘cultural nationalism’ and developed in us the idea of a nation that is highly stigmatized by the utterance of the word sex and still worships the Shiva Lingam; frowns at public display of affection and feels proud about nudist art because the ‘temples’ promote them. By the time we were independent we had fully developed into a pedantic race and the many films that were abolished due to delineation of erotica corroborates our hypocrisy as a race. Nationalism also made us love ourselves so much that we vilified anything alternative to our ‘fabricated’ belief about our culture which is precisely why we can’t handle films which attempt to pinpoint relevant issues and bring them to the coffee table. As a matter of fact, people in general don’t have issues with certain films; rather bringing up films which happen to talk about some marginalized community is seen as a popular tactic in electoral politics of the age. There’s actually no substance in arguments against such films. People say that so and so film promotes nudity- nobody explains what is wrong with nudity, so and so film talks about this particular happening- nobody argues on the truth value. Such controversial films indeed portray certain social realities, like Garam Hawa which was banned due to potential threat to communal harmony; again there was no point in withholding the screening of something which is actually true. Rather the arguments against the film created such conflicts that it itself became a potential threat to harmony and not the film in question. A large number of films are also banned on religious grounds. If any media tries to capture the existing malpractices in a religion or better still questions the credibility of a particular belief we are suddenly up in arms and brand that media as heretic.

As far as tackling content in films with discretion is concerned, we are not at all mature, we don’t want philandering with truth, we would rather sleep with our conceited notions about our culture when we ourselves don’t know enough about it to learn and make an informed choice before accepting or rejecting a form of art on the basis of aesthetics. However, we as a nation are advancing and the youth today is beginning to appreciate such parallel films. It just requires some more rationality on our part to be more tolerant and there’s no reason why that should mean compromising our religion and national pride.

Soumyajit Kar is currently a student of Economics, at St. Stephen’s College. Being a hardcore Bengali and Calcuttan, he is a voracious foodie who loves to cook and eat. He is also passionate about books, mainly thrillers and off record; he also loves to write, {not laughing out loud}. Having been trained in Indian Classical Music, he is rather proud of his refined taste in music and the performing arts. Email him at [email protected].


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