India Freedom of Speech – Is it really free?

Yeh sab hum sab ke andar hai, hindu mussalman sikh. Hum sab haramzaade hai, hum sab janwaar hai (This is all within us, hindu muslim sikh. We are all bastards, We are all animals)

I’ve been meaning to see a few of Deepa Mehta’s movies and I managed to see two this week, ‘Water’ and ‘1947 Earth’. These two along with ‘Fire’ complete her highly controversial trilogy.

Fire was the first movie released based on love between lesbians. When the movie released, the Shiv Sena party (the fascist moral policemen of Bombay) burnt a couple of theatres in Bombay which were screening the movie on the pretext of it showing Indian society and Hinduism in a bad light. After the initial acts of vandalism the film was never screened again in India. Their judgement was final, obviating any need for a government or a censor board.

1947 Earth the second movie in the series is a very touching story based in Lahore (current day Pakistan) during Independence and Partition. This movie really brings out all human emotions exposing the basic frailty of human nature. There is one scene which was a very sobering experience for me. Amir Khan, one of the leads playing a muslim, is observing the riots from the top of his building. When a mob of Muslims starts killing Hindus in lahore, without realizing it, his mind is suddenly filled with a kinship towards Muslims and hate towards Hindus. On expressing these thoughts in front of his hindu friend he suddenly realizes the effect of mob mentality.

Water (released 2006) is based on India sixty years ago and depicts the life of a socially ostracized widow. This movie, inspite of having all clearances from state and central government, was still vandalized during filming by people of the ruling BJP party, RSS and VHP. They caused extensive damages to the set and crew based on the charge that the movie was showing hinduism in a wrong light (as they felt with the previous two movies).

Deepa Mehta in her short journey of just 3 films may have realized that India is a democracy just on paper. The rule of political power and goondaism is all pervasive.

India has freedom of speech, but there is always going to be a price to be paid.

4 thoughts on “India Freedom of Speech – Is it really free?”

  1. I saw Fire (when it was running in the theaters in India) and Earth, a few months ago here. I thought Earth was a very well-made film, very well-acted and beautifully casted. Have to yet catch Water.

  2. No fair, how come when I said this everyone got all pissed off? India does not truly believe in freedom of speech or press. People here love to be offended – that seems to be all the TV shows are, just people being offended. This lets everyone know how high their standards are (we don’t stand for ______ round here! Huff, puff).

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