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Copyright 2004

ARCHIVES -- INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Editorial: Leave cinema alone

CINEMA IS THE newest art form which continues to explore, learning and unlearning as it moves along. Its freshness of ideas, its novelty of experiments and its ease with technology amaze us no end. And it is this medium that the Government at the Centre seeks to control and capture in the most devious of fashions. We saw the way India's highest film awards were tarnished so shamelessly the other day, even as some jurors literally rose in revolt against what they termed highly unethical practices. Hardly had this furore died down when the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry set up a committee to try and shift movies to the Concurrent List of the Indian Constitution.

This exercise seems harmless at one level, but at another, it smacks of the BJP Government's almost ruthless ambition to ``enslave'' cinema, whose power and hold over the masses are enormous. Tamil Nadu is perhaps a classic case, whose example others have followed. Some Indian actresses and actors have almost become demi-gods whose writ sometimes negates law and legality. Fully conscious of this, the administration has, more recently, sought to manipulate and even openly interfere in organisations like the Directorate of Film Festivals and the National Film Development Corporation of India, which though wings of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry were established with a clear understanding that they would enjoy a certain comfortable degree of autonomy. But this freedom has been steadily eroded by a Government which is determined to keep the medium firmly in its grip.

Nothing can be more destructive than this. Movies, all said and done, are expressions of creativity that need space and liberty to grow and flourish. In fact, the world over, there is a feeling that motion pictures should not have restrictions of any kind, and this includes censorship. America does not have any. The British Board of Film Classification is far more liberal today than what it was even a couple of years ago. A major survey there revealed that most adults believed that they should be allowed to make up their minds about what they wanted to watch. But, in India, the Censor Board has merely grown into a domineering, insensitive and illogical body which is sadly ignorant of global realities. The question is, why have censorship at all? If the press does not need one, why must cinema? Certainly, a mechanism like the Press Council is more than adequate to serve as a watchdog for films, which can be left alone with age-based suitability certificates. The Government should confine itself to providing better infrastructure instead of tinkering with, let us say, prizes and lists. Years ago, there was a plan to build small auditoriums to promote works with greater aesthetic qualities. Nothing has been done here, with the result that parallel or better cinema made with very little money continues to languish for want of distributors and exhibitors - and hence patronage. Most important, now that movies have been declared an industry, the Government can help them find ``clean'' institutional funds, and allow them to create the best. After all, there is an intelligent audience to judge cinema, an exercise that no Government should be tempted to indulge in.

(This editorial appeared in The Hindu dated April 6 2001)


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