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The Debate Is On

Friday, February 06, 2015
By Deepa Gahlot

The furore in certain political quarters over the AIB Roast of film personalities went to show once again how thin-skinned we have become. The concept of a roast in which, basically, people who are willing to be insulted, are ripped apart in the vilest terms, should not affect anybody but the ‘victim’ and the audience.  It may not be everybody’s idea of a good time, but then there is no accounting for taste.

 However, every time there are frivolous protests over non-issues, the debate, we as a society should actually be having over what constitutes obscenity, gets buried in the noise. Anybody with a sensible bone in their body cannot but be disturbed by the boundaries that are being slowly pushed, to see how much vulgarity can be put into films and other entertainment media, without inviting censure. It is as if they are challenging the very concept of decency, so that anyone who professes to be offended or shocked by the blatant vulgarity on display, is mocked as a prude or ‘moral’ police.

So our film songs are getting cruder by the day, violence and sex of the distasteful kind, and the worst sort of sexism get past the censors. There are those who question the very concept of censorship, which shouldn’t be there at all in an ideal world, where people in show business understand their social responsibility and keep a check in their own work.  But it is not known to have happened; if filmmakers can get away with graphic scenes of violence and sex, they will push them into their films, in the name of creative freedom. We do not live in an ideal world, and some checking system has to be put in place. Censorship may not be the best option, but in India mere certification does not work, because nobody can ensure that the chopped scenes will not be put back, or that films certified for Adults Only will not be accessible to children.

We cite the liberal West as an example to emulate, but even there, sporadic outbursts of outrage, and banning of films, or commercials, do take place.

While it is true that the notions of morality and decency have changed over the years, but there are still some regulations society imposes on itself, and there is no reason why freedom of expression should be made an excuse to break those rules. Unfortunately, the publicity and power seekers have hijacked the moral agenda, and are endangering the very idea of freedom. Which is not to say that a democratic society should not allow for protests if an individual or group finds something offensive, but the protests should not descend to violence, muscle-flexing or displays of power. If we allow the loony fringe to dictate to us, then we are allowing the very idea of a democracy to be eroded.

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