Indu Sarkar controversy: Why are political parties so thin-skinned? | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Indu Sarkar controversy: Why are political parties so thin-skinned?

The multiple fronts at which Madhur Bhandarkar is being attacked is a good pointer as to why seldom Indian filmmakers, especially mainstream filmmakers, venture into making biographies or historical drama in a serious manner

editorials Updated: Jul 17, 2017 21:17 IST
Congress workers stage a demonstration to protest against Madhur Bhandarkar's upcoming film Indu Sarkar, Nagpur, July 16
Congress workers stage a demonstration to protest against Madhur Bhandarkar's upcoming film Indu Sarkar, Nagpur, July 16(IANS)

We in India love our cinema and wear the film critic’s hat with ease. That’s a good sign of the freedom of speech and, at times, even reflects the maturity of the audience we are. The problem is when some take the job of the censor board upon themselves and judge whether one of the other film should be shown or whether a scenes or words should be deleted. Or indeed, whether the whole subject is unsuitable.

And this is one of the many problems Hindi filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar is facing these days. His film Indu Sarkar, based on the 21-month Emergency between 1975 and 1977 imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, has run into opposition from the Congress, which is demanding that the film be screened first to them before it is sent to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Party members are concerned about the depiction of their leaders in the film, and thus the disruption of the film’s press conferences. So much for freedom of expression.

Why is it that organisations — cultural, religious, and especially political — and even governments are so sensitive when it comes to the depiction of its leaders? Why is it that they are so thin-skinned? India has had many tall leaders and yet why is it that a true depiction of them is missing from popular culture? Why is it that a culture of concealing or glossing over the shortcomings of our leaders is encouraged? Mahatma Gandhi, with his unquestionable contribution towards the formation of modern India, was not a perfect human being. And, some argue, that it is those shortcomings that enhance his greatness. Why is it difficult for many to realise that their leaders are/were also human, with all the accompanying frailties? This hypersensitivity that stymies true depictions of our leaders must stop. On the contrary, we often resort to hagiographies that give a distorted recollection of history.

Though Mr Bhandarkar has stressed that about 70% of his film is fiction, the multiple fronts at which the filmmaker is being attacked is a good pointer as to why seldom Indian filmmakers, especially mainstream filmmakers, venture into making biographies or historical drama in a serious manner.

Movies are not necessarily accurate depictions of individuals and events — for that we have documentaries. But where such movies become important is that they recreate events, and open leaders and events to discussions and debates. And it is through such debates that posterity attains a better understanding of history. We cannot, and must not, block any attempt that leads to it.