Nobody has yet found a way to blame Bollywood for the paedophilia at Nithari or the gangrapes and murders in Khairlanji. But it won’t be for lack of trying. Films and filmstars are always the softest targets for self-serving moralists or politicians whose main aim is publicity as opposed to creating awareness of an issue.
The latest is our State Transport Commissioner Shyamsunder D Shinde who doesn’t want to see speeding bikes in films "because they encourage activities like bike racing and rash driving".
He has even dashed off a letter to the Censor Board asking them to delete all such scenes in movies. It would be absurd if it did not have the unfortunate impact such statements often do. And if it did not reflect total disregard for the real problems.
Anupam Kher, actor, producer and former chairman of the Censor Board, protests. “This is so ridiculous. Why don’t they speed up what they need to do to about Mumbai’s traffic instead? Or ask motorcycle manufacturers to install a device that limits the speed to 60 kmph? Why talk of banning racing scenes in films?” he fumes and adds: “Because attacking films and filmstars gets them instant mileage.”
Producer and former Rajya Sabha MP Pritish Nandy puts it a little more boldly: “Bloody publicity-seekers,” he explodes. “The whole idea is to seek their five minutes of fame.”
He continues in the same vein when he said, "Bureaucrats think they can admonish the public and define what is moral. They preach to their children, the neighbourhood and then the nation. And some moronic Health Minister issues a diktat that we should see no smoking scenes in films. It is complete immorality when his own government collects tens of thousands of crores from the tobacco industry."
Further, says Nandy, moral policing and clamping down on free expression and open discussions on sex have contributed to “more groping, rape incidents and perversities in our society.” But, he adds, freedom of expression and choice have become “so critical now that citizens are not willing to make sacrifices for the “allegedly noble intentions” behind moral policing.
Nandy clearly does not think along the same lines as Arvind Trivedi, a Gujarati film actor and another former chairman of the Censor Board, who famously declared: “Films are the Gangotri of our society. They are something holy. We should not soil them.” Unrealistic as his statement may be, it illustrates how both the legitimate and the self-appointed censors want to sanitise Bollywood and keep it in a state of officially-controlled morality while the society goes on its own way.
The hoary argument about films influencing society is so specious (and exploited ad nauseum) that it is not even laughable. Remember the villain in countless Hindi films in the ’70s and his mandatory molestation of the heroine? He leered, she screeched, they did so again in close-up and the dastardly deed was done.
Did they have a delayed effect perhaps, considering those rape scenes are now passe in Hindi films but the crime graph against women is rising? Messrs Shinde and Trivedi, Ms Sushma Swaraj and Pratibha Naithani, should we consider deleting all those scenes now?