Is cinema allowed to make a point in India? Or is the whole point is making sugar-candies for NRIs? I’ve got no problem with that – heck, I actually love them. But what if I want to see a direct political film, in theater? Would I be safe?
This is not going to be anywhere close to being a verbose write-up about freedom of expression. Simply because a few million souls are already doing that out there. And there is not much to add to that. We would be using this space to just sit back and think.
While a film-maker has to invariably think from the perspective of the audience, we, the much feared audience do not give too much to the travails of the film-makers. Luckily, we don’t have to think about that here too. For, this write-up asks us audience to think about our own selves.
‘Think’, because what goes around comes around. If we are fine with not being allowed to watch a socially-relatable film today, tomorrow we might be told to not watch any kind of cinema. After all, if today’s taboo is tomorrow’s token in a naturally progressive society, how far can the opposite of that be in a regressive society!
We’ve chosen the example of Fahreinheit 9/11 here simply to highlight the contrast in the civil societies of the world’s two most important democracies. The question here is not whether Fahrenheit 9/11 was an objective, non-partisan piece of (docu) art or not. It probably wasn’t entirely so – inspite of being an engaging piece of craft. But the subject here is whether we are free enough to make and watch a film like that? Can we be so unambiguous and blatant in our portrait of the President, Prime Minister or even a Chief Minister of India? We all know the answer, don’t we? And yet, we don’t know why!
Are people so naive that a single three-hour film would turn their understanding of an issue on its head? It did not happen in USA – what with George Bush winning the election with a better margin.
And it won’t happen here too. Especially since we barely have a culture for serious cinema. Except in certain pockets of the nation, we Indians do not exactly treat cinema as food for soul. Logically, anything that is not considered serious enough would more often than not fail to evoke a serious reaction.
And even if the ‘sentiments’ are hurt, honest, hardworking and law-abiding citizens do not go on rampage ransacking public property. Those who do, do not need any excuse. So, what’s the point of the ‘ban brigade’ anyway? If we can elect governments, we can digest cinema too. Remember that.
Fahrenheit 9/11 is an award-winning documentary film by American filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore. It throws a harsh and critical look at George W. Bush, his presidency and the War on Terrorism. The film had generated a great deal of controversy because of its content and The Los Angeles Times described the film as “an alternate history of the last four years on the U.S. political scene.”
The movie begins by questioning whether friends and political allies of George W. Bush at Fox News Channel (including his cousin, John Ellis) tilted the election of 2000 by prematurely declaring Bush the winner. It then questions whether the voting controversy in Florida, and its handling by the responsible authorities, constituted election fraud!
Although claimed a documentary, the film has been called (Democratic Party) propaganda, because of its shrill anti Bush tone.
But the subject here is that the (docu) filmmaker not only made an absolutely uncharitable and potentially immensely damaging film about the ruling administration but also got away with releasing the film and making more than $120 million at the box-office!
And yet, George Bush won the next election. That is the beauty of democracy; everyone has the right to put his case; and the general public takes the eventual call.