Project 365: Day 34 — High On Delusion

Those of us in India who have been acutely aware of how the state of affairs will know how we are slowly (and hopefully not surely) turning into North Korea. This has not always been the case, but has been slowly seeping into our collective (un)consciousness after the new Govt. came into power in 2014. Taking offense seems to be a national pass time, to the extent that when an actor made an offhand statement about his wife expressing her concerns saying there would soon come a time when they’d have to move out of this country, people took offense even about that! So when the actor in question called India intolerant in that context, India (well, the public, Twitter trolls and our wonderfully biased larger sections of the media) outraged over his statement by doing exactly what he had been talking about — putting their intolerance on display — burning his effigies, abusing him, making death threats, saying he should go back to Pakistan (because his religion would logically demand that he “go back to enemy camp”.

In my opinion, one of the biggest blows to India is the decline of the quality of people who head its most premier institutions. Politically motivated idiots who suck up to politicians are being chosen to helm India’s finest filmmaking schools. The current head of the Film & Television Institution of India is Gajendra Chauhan, whose only claim to fame is playing Yudhishthir in B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharata. Aside from that, he has only acted in B-rated movies that deserve no recognition. So, aside from playing a character who gambled his wife away in a game, he has no other reputable acting credentials to speak of. And yet, this guy is at the helm of India’s most prestigious institutions that has boast of illustrious alumni such as Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi among many others. What kind of standards of education do we expect this man to uphold? And one would ask what prompted our Government to appoint this man? Just the fact that he is close to one of the top brass in the ruling party’s cabinet. When a political party in power takes control of our artistic and educational institutions — effectively telling us what can and cannot be taught, heard, said, watched, this is when a supposedly democratic country like India is decidedly on its way to turning into North Korea. And when you open the newspapers, watch news channels, you will be fed a distorted version of the truth. Instead of fair reportage, you will see a skewed version of what’s out there. You will only see that a person helming an institution is being targeted without being given a chance but will hear nothing about the powers that have been responsible for his appointment. Students and cops clash. Even women are dragged off on roads by army men, as we have seen in the case of the JNU fracas. And then, our Prime Minister goes around making statements like, “ India lives as one; India grows as one; India celebrates as one.” We are one in our slow decline. That’s the only thing we’re one in.

Still don’t believe me? Let me give you the most recent example. There is a twat who goes by the name of Pahlaj Nihalani who has very little credit as a filmmaker even though he has made a few films. He has been appointed the Chief of the Central Board of Film Certification in India. He has gone on to make critical mistakes such as deleting expletives from films meant for adults — like in Deadpool, for example, half the words got beeped out for a film meant for adults only. He is the self-appointed beacon of good morals and values and doesn’t mind being called thus if it is, in his words, ‘in the national interest’. He has most recently sparred with one of India’s most well-known offbeat filmmakers, Anurag Kashyap over the release of Udta Punjab (which deals with the premise of drug addiction, a major problem in the state of Punjab). The latter is known for making cinema that is considered offbeat, but in my humble opinion, it is meant for evolved audiences, audiences who want to watch real stories. This article entails how Nihalani is rooting very hard against the release of Udta Punjab in its current form, going so far as to want the word ‘Punjab’ removed from the title of the film, because it implies that the Govt of Punjab has been unable to do anything about the drug menace.

Today, the CBFC has gotten a fitting reply from the High Court where the makers dragged the CBFC to after they failed to certify the film as is. Here’s some serious badassery displayed by the judge and some extremely stupid points made by the CBFC in defense of its objections. While the final judgment on how many cuts happen is pending, the outcome looks extremely positive for the makers of the film, who as the judge pointed out while addressing the CBFC, have gotten undue attention thanks to this fracas. The other extremely pertinent point made by him is that the CBFC’s job is not to censor but to certify. Why and how does the CBFC censor films? Why do they get away with it? Thanks to the blessings of the powers that appointed Nihalani, films that could mean something are mercilessly butchered. If you don’t believe me, read the pointless reasons for which Udta Punjab is being asked to tone it down in those tweets in the Buzzfeed article shared in the link above.

Talks of development and progress are all good marketing propaganda but in truth, thanks to these kind of elements that have seeped into institutions that shape our thinking and foundations, how long will the free, urban, modern, all-accepting, “united” India last? It’s only a matter of time before another voice is silenced, another puppet with strings is put in a position of power. This is no democracy if freedom comes at the price of sacrificing access to truth and good art and an education not marred by right wing motivations. These notions of progress are a result of good marketing. If you really believe that we’re making progress by “keeping it clean” as Nihalani is likely to put it, you’re probably high on the thing they’re selling — delusion.

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