The best thing to have happened in the fight for free expression since loaves were sliced against conventional wisdom is Rakhi Sawant taking on the Censor Board of India. It is a landmark event because overwhelmingly in India, the complaint comes from some Johnnie who’s upset that some scene in some film has ‘hurt the sentiments of a community’ or is a ‘vulgar depiction that goes against our culture’. Well, Ms Sawant has lobbed a grenade from the other direction and we’re cheering her on. She served a legal notice against the Board’s decision not to allow the music video of her song, ‘Kameeni tera bhoot chad gaya re’ to be aired on telly. No, not because the video’s too raunchy. What made the Board ban her song? It seems it is the word ‘kameeni’. ‘Kameeni’ is the female equivalent of ‘kameeney’, literally ‘a low life’ or ‘rascal’ in Hindi but said with the emotional force of the English epithet, ‘bastard!’
Ms Sawant is bang on with her argument when she says that the Board’s decision boils down to gender hypocrisy. As she points out with the precision of a Sorabjee, male actors have been using ‘kameeney’ for ages, Dharmendra making it his signature tune. The censors had no problem with Vishal Bharadwaj even naming his film, Kaminey (the translation of a standard conversation thereby becoming: “What film did you watch today, Auntie?” “Bastard”).
To add fuel to her jhatka, our very own Sophia Loren-cum-Germaine Greer has stated that she’ll go on a hunger strike to protest the ban. We, of course, know what the real problem is: the Board doesn’t want to be seen as being ‘uncool’ about Ms Sawant’s display of her assets, so they state an innocuous, universal exclamatory word in its feminine gender to be the issue. And by Ms Sawant’s assets we mean her freedom of expression and creativity, of course.