Thursday, November 14, 2013

Now MP High Court swings to Hindutva tunes – Ram Leela doomed

What’s wrong with our courts? I wrote yesterday about how the SC reversed its own stand and ordered a further delay in the demolition of the illegal Campa Cola flats in Mumbai. Now the MP HC has directed, at the very last moment I might add, that the title of the film Ram Leela should be dropped. Err….dropped? At the last moment? Is this not harassment? But forget the court for a moment. What is more important is, who are these people who worry so much about our “Hindu sentiment”? Why are they so illiberal? Is this the kind of culture we want in this country?

These are the people who want to take India back to the dark ages. They are so insecure about Hinduism that they won’t allow any interpretation of it that is different from theirs nor allow the creative folks a little creative license.

Ram Leela is hardly the first instance where people with 17th century mindset have made such objections. Remember Sushma Swaraj of the BJP protesting against usage of the name “Radha” in the song “Radha” from the film “Student of the Year”? I wrote about this on 12th November, 2012 in a post titled “Did Sushma Swaraj just complain about the “Radha” song from Student of the Year???” (available at Her objection was that Radha has been shown in the film as not knowing how to dance and being invited to the dance floor to learn to dance (TOI - So did she mean that all Radhas have genes that make them expert dancers – if so, then maybe this is something that geneticists should research! Actually, Sushma would have found much more to object to if only she had heard the lyrics carefully. The lyrics of the song “Radha” actually put the words “sexy” and “Radha” together. Surely “Sexy Radha” must have appalled Sushma! Not only that, but Radha likes to move that “sexy Radha body”. Man that’s going too far, isn’t it??!! And when Radha wants to party and Radha “wants more”, then that must be going over the top for most BJP/Hindutva leaders! Apparently, Sushma considered this so important that she took up the matter in Parliament!

And why do such things happen only in BJP ruled states? We know the BJP can be exceedingly orthodox when it comes to religious matters. From doing pujas when the rains fail (in Karnataka when ruled by the party) to making singing of Saraswati Vandana compulsory in schools (in MP), the BJP has shown a penchant for high order and aggressive Hindu orthodoxy. Now I don’t know who these two lawyers are who filed the petition – Anand Chawla and Amit Kumar Sahu – and whether they are related in any manner to the BJP or not, but there is no doubt that the party’s Hindutva ideology does at least partially encourage people like them to stay back in the old ages. And when they see a leader like Sushma Swaraj – an otherwise erudite and inspiring leader – fight for such causes, surely they get the requisite encouragement to pursue their ancient-age agenda.

It appears that the courts also get influenced by the politics of the state. We’ve seen the Supreme Court having to step in and take specific cases outside of a state when it finds this. Several of the 2002 Godhra related cases were taken out of Gujarat for instance. This instance in MP also proves the point. The Delhi High Court, perhaps because of the liberal environment in which it operates, had a completely different take on the same issue. Here is what Outlook India reports on its website ( ): “Interestingly, a Delhi court yesterday recalled its earlier order of restraining Bhansali and EROS International Media Limited from using the title 'Ram Leela' for the film, slated for November 15 release. The Delhi High Court had earlier refused to ban the release of the movie and also imposed a cost of Rs 50,000 on an NGO which had moved the plea against the film on the ground that sex, violence and vulgarity in the movie will hurt religious sentiments and feelings of Hindus”. How is it that two High Courts rule in such completely opposite ways. The only explanation has to be that they are influenced by the societal and political environments in their states.

The poor producer is now stuck. He does not even know what to do next. Outlook reports that he has already changed the name of the film a few times. First from Ram Leela (two separate words) to RamLeela (one word) to Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (Ugghhh!). But what now? How can the producer just drop the name in its entirety? If it were just a descriptor that caused the problem, he could still have done it. But to change the title itself at the last minute is pure harassment. The producer will have to delay the launch of the film in MP, appeal in the SC, make many lawyers richer by tens of lacs of rupees, and then hopefully get a reprieve. If anyone had any doubts about how difficult it is to do business in India, even if it is something as casual as films, this case proves it.

The real truth is that this is how Hindutva would pervade our entire life, if we didn’t take steps to stop it. Next time a producer makes a film, he will just play safe. Stay away from anything that can raise the hackles of the Hindu brigade. This is what Mahesh Bhatt said when the Radha controversy arose ( This is exactly what happens in Taliban-land, and in the worst of the Islamic world. Do we really want to support this version of Hindutva? Do we want to encourage it or kill it before it explodes in our faces????

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