With films' subjects being freely questioned, the idea of freedom of expression for filmmakers is at stake, feels Mahesh Bhatt who says writers nowadays live under constant fear of the consequences their work would evoke.
"Today in India, the writer lives with dread of the mob outside. Filmmakers are not underground revolutionaries. We are not armed to deal with crazy mobs. Timidity becomes the philosophy and fear is ruling over us," said Bhatt, known for directing films like Zakhm and Saaransh.
He was speaking at a panel discussion The Gag Orders - Are We Stifling Creative Expression? at the ongoing FICCI Frames, the annual conclave of the media and entertainment industry.
Mob has a right to protest, but should not terrorise, he feels.
"They do have a right to protest, but they can't terrorise and gang up. Also, when your movie is faced with a problem, no one does anything, even in the highest power (echelon)," said Bhatt adding that cinema can't be blamed solely for what is happening in society.
After a 23-year-old paramedical student's gang rape in the capital, many alleged that titillating songs and provocative scenes in movies influence people to do such acts.
"We can see that cinema influences, but only cinema cannot be blamed. We haven't got that evidence yet. The day we will get it, we will stop making such films," he said.
The other panellists included actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan, actor Rahul Bose, and Member of Parliament Jay Panda.
In light of the recent Vishwaroopam controversy, Kamal Haasan said this is not a new phenomenon, it has been going on for a while now.
"This has not happened now, it has been going on for years," he said and added that the filmmakers should make it their right to voice their opinion without worrying about consequences. "Collective consciousness needs to come about," he said.
The release of Vishwaroopam, an espionage thriller on terrorism, was banned in Tamil Nadu after Muslim groups complained that some sequences in the film would hurt the sentiments of the community.
Rahul Bose, a name to reckon with in parallel cinema thanks to his work in Mr. and Mrs Iyer and Jhankaar Beats, too feels that the fraternity must come together to take up the issue.
"Artists do provoke society. Questions will be raised by films. But this will only happen when that piece is allowed to be displayed (on the screen) and artists aren't be pushed against the wall," he said.