The Tamil film "Viswaroopam" by Kamal Hassan has been banned in Tamil Nadu on the grounds that it hurts sentiments and therefore poses as a law and order threat. To begin with, it is a culture that defines its citizens and literature. In one of the oldest civilizations prevalent, we are seeing a rising culture of intolerance. As sociologist Ashis Nandy recently told a television journalist that we are today less willing to debate about clash of ideas and are only interested in platitudes which is a pity.

Today, across the spectrum, artistic freedom is under assault.  To illustrate this point further, consider these examples: a film's title is changed because it has "Barber" suffixed to its title which offends the community of barbers. Can it get more ridiculous than this? Meanwhile, there is a song from a Hindi movie in which an entire line is beeped out as it offends a community despite the fact that it quotes a Hindi proverb. The unfair treatment meted out to Viswaroopam is disturbing considering that it is the second film worldwide to use the Auro 3D technology and the first Indian film to do so, therefore setting a new record. However, I am strongly of the belief that no one has the right to prevent a public screening of a film once it is cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). 

At this juncture, it becomes necessary for us to pause and introspect at the idea of having multiple central boards for certification of films. The fundamental process of any creative process is the freedom to dissent. Artists must be allowed to show their films or write the books they wish to write in order to unleash their creativity. Having said that, it is also equally important that artists have to be heroes of society and we must encourage ourselves to be tolerant towards the intolerant as well. 

Artistic freedom has to be protected and fought for at all times. Despite Mr. Kamal Hassan stating that he would look for citizenship in another country, it is indeed a hang-our-heads-in-shame moment as his contribution towards Indian cinema is unparalleled. Therefore, leaving the battle mid-way ahead of the film's release would send a wrong message and will lead to the fringe elements being emboldened. 

The rise of cultural terrorism and it is indeed disturbing to note that intolerance unites India just as much it divides these days. Targetting writers and filmmakers alone would not help the cause of disruption. It is important we debate on the premise that what breaches law and order would not necessarily affect society or a community as a whole. If writers and filmmakers are forced to think and censor ideas as they write, it is better that we do not ask them to write anything at all than issue disclaimers at every step. 

The craveness and vicious designs employed by our politicians time and again have at least done us the service of revealing how subjugated our constitutional right that guarantees freedom of expression is. It is only when we have debates at regular intervals and people can muster the courage to speak up against the state that we can be even worthy of the freedom of expression we seek. 


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