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Editorial Consultants
E. J. Kalwachia
Anil Verma 
A. C. Patankar

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A. I. Bhuvaneshwar (East)
F. K. Khapoliwalla (West)
Dhruv Sharma (New Delhi)
Vinod Kumar (Chennai)

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S.R. Marolia

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Delshad Kumana

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Rashna Ardesher

Editor
B. K. Karanjia

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C. Karunaharan

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  “THE INDIAN EXPRESS”
 
  Our Barrier Mentality

alls have played a decisive role in history — the Great Wall of China,the Berlin Wall, the barricades of the French Revolution, the electric wire fences of concentration camps, the bleeding barriers of today’s world. But this great role, its purport as well as its horror, is anticlimaxed, shamed, by the proposal recently put forward in all seriousness by the powers that be and which our ever-vigilant police are set to enforce in all earnestness — building a three-foot-high wall between the (usually) inebriated men and the dancing (provocatively?) girls, with a five-foot distance between them as a measure of abundant caution in the city’s abounding dance bars.

Behind this gross absurdity, one senses a touch of male chauvinism given that drunken men are the predators… Even as, when the typewriter was first invented, lady typists or "Lady Typewriters" as they were called, were believed to be husband snatchers and home breakers — chauvinism once again — and were confined by the British Inland Revenue in locked, barred rooms and fed through a hatch!

But that is by the way. What is happening, or about to happen in our dance bars is only a crude extension of the vagaries imposed by an outdated mindset and a rigid system of censorship on our films, but not only films. Even the Supreme Court in its judgement on K.A. Abbas’s documentary film, A Tale of Four Cities, was provoked to charge the censors with thinking "more of the depraved and less of the ordinary moral man". The Government’s own Committee on Censorship, presided over by Justice G.D. Khosla, also indicted Indian censorship policies for making sex illicit and driving it underground: "Undue suppression of the sex theme by law has the same effect on the minds of the people as unwholesome confinement of filth and dirt in their bodies."

This "filth and dirt" we are witness to in the alarming increase in the number of rapes, even of minors, reported in the Press, the mad rush for tickets of uncensored films by sexually frustrated cinegoers at our international film festivals, and in the misbehaviour, descending to rapes and sex killings, in our dance bars. The point is that our national barrier mentality stands between freedom and its various modes of expression like cinema, documentaries and, expectedly, our dance bars. The Press is in a different category altogether; it enjoys a fair measure of freedom because it has become a force, united and strong. Not so commercial cinema, weakened by internal disunities and dissensions, our documentaries which are even weaker, facing as they do the unequal, unfair competition of the Films Division monolith, and dance bars which are the weakest because suspected to be catering to the baser instincts of their patrons.

Let’s begin with bars. A wall is hardly the solution, three feet high or 30 feet. Why can’t we learn from various western cities where there are nightclubs, even blatantly advertised nude shows, which don’t have walls, they have hefty bouncers who are more efficient than a dumb wall can ever be. Besides, in these cities, the rulers have faith in the good behaviour of their people even at nightclubs. The bouncer is seldom called upon to display his prowess. Alas, we don’t trust our people. How can we? We don’t trust ourselves. Our inner motives and their outward demonstration are at variance.

Then take documentary films. The many farmer suicides, the malnutrition deaths of thousands upon thousands of children, the Bhagalpur blindings of prisoners by policemen, these are subjects crying out to be filmed. But no documentarist in his right mind would dare risk filming them. Take the case of the well-known documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, who for every film banned by the censors, has to appeal again and again to the courts, which in India are the final repositories of our freedoms. Take the more recent case of Rakesh Sharma, whose searing documentary on the Gujarat riots has won several prestigious international awards, but is not allowed to be shown in his own country!

Man is a social animal who likes to communicate with his fellows. But he is also a moral animal, with a weakness which he considers to be his strength, of trying to reform his fellows. But make no mistake. Behind all the excuses made and the pleas repeated by the powers that be, their basic intuition is not so much to improve morals, as to hide the truth from our people. It is far, far easier to conceal what is horrifying than to reform and do what is good and right.

Since we appear in our new-found passion for building walls, determined to make ourselves a laughing stock, we might as well learn to laugh at ourselves. That is the motive behind "Biopsy Of A Film Poster" published on another page. This was written at a time when our scissorheads, our kenchimasters, perched on their lofty judgement seats, decided on an impulse that film posters too needed to be sanitised to save the country's youth from damnation.


B.K. Karanjia

 

 

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