“Ban”wa Banvi

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When a man decides to do something, there are many should ideally support him and encourage him. In India however, there are hundreds who will rise to stop him from doing it. And lately it seems that’s the only thing they have been doing; taking offence to anything and everything.

2013 began with the anguish over the Delhi Rape case and that’s what our focus was on. Come February, the focus is on free speech, freedom of expression and the right to express and have an opinion. It all began with Ashis Nandy’s statements at the Jaipur Literary Festival. With the huge outrage from political parties and particular sections of the society, the man backtracked saying something quite different from what he actually said, and blamed the media and the people for “misunderstanding” it. Really Mr. Nandy, if a writer gets misunderstood whose fault is it?

This then followed up with the Vishwaroopam Controversy. It said movie gave a bad name to Islam, but don’t terrorists do the same in real. True Islam and many Muslims do not advocate neither support terrorism, but why take offence to something being portrayed on-screen when its actually happening not only in Afghanistan, Pakistan but India too. As Javed Akhtar rightly said, the anguish should be against the terrorists and those who indulge in wrongdoings using Jihad and not against those who make films about it. Somehow, the movie released all over India with no Muslim groups taking any offence while it was only in Tamil Nadu that the controversy happened. Just another way of promoting a boring movie (yes many who saw the film said its boring and not controversial) or another example of intolerance of Indians?

Then Salman Rushdie comes to India and is denied permission to enter Bengal by Mamata Banerjee sighting security concerns. Rushdie still is in the eye of the storm with his controversial book Satanic Verses and it shall stay forever it seems. Sadly, Rushdie creates more headlines by not going to a place instead of through his writings and talented remarks. Before it was the Jaipur Literary Festival and now the screening of Midnight’s Children.

Now its a girls band in Kashmir who are facing the brunt. Even Honey Singh had to face the music for his “Balatkari” song. If foul lyrics, bad words being used in songs, double meaning songs are the problem its not only the artiste who is at fault. The popularity of such songs reflect the mindset of the society and so instead of asking them to change, isn’t it us who needs to be the change? Shouldn’t we stop taking offence to every issue and actually giving it undeserved publicity? Would Vishwaroopam be the talk of the town without the controversy or would any of us even know the name Ashis Nandy had his statements not been “controversial”. As it has always been, any publicity is good publicity and due to this reason writers attending the Jaipur Festival last year were hardly noticed while Rushdie who could not attend made headlines. Its time those finding offence realise they are actually helping the ones who offended them and its time the society realises that we must take offence to terrorism, rigged elections, corruption, poverty, etc. instead of a song, a writing or a movie.

Art is the language of expression and requires creative freedom to flourish. For it to flourish in the society we need to change and bring the change so the voices that try to ban them have to think twice and not the artist.

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