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'Fire' generates heated debate at film festival

Clipping (47kbs) - The Times of India, 14-01-1999. By Nikhat Kazmi

Record Number : A0021205

Click to browse by keyword: Cinema Film exhibition Censorship Politics Politicians Freedom of Expression Visual art


'Fire' generates heated debate at film festival
Nikhat Kazmi


The heat of Fire has managed to reach the city and is lending angry colours to the international film festival here.

At an open forum, organised under the aegis of the Federation of Film Societies artists, film-makers and media critics vehemently condemned the attempts of the Shiv Sainiks to pull out Deepa Mehta’s controversial film from auditoriums and pressed the need for a consolidated protest against all forms of extra-constitutional censorship.

According to Shabana Azmi, the issue was much bigger than the merits of the film which could be sanely debated. “If we do not take up cudgels against this kind of extra-legal censorship, we will also be dead,” she exhorted.

Condemning the attempts of Bal Thackeray to communalise the debate, she pointed out that despite the overwhelming response from civil society, the Shiv Sena had managed to remove Fire from theatres in Delhi and Mumbai.

Film-maker Shyam Benegal felt it was ridiculous on the part of the information and broadcasting ministry to send the film back to the Censor Board after it had been duly passed.

Indicting the government for sending out “confused signals”, he pointed out that censorship had not been able to work in the country for the last 50 years.

Film-maker Desari Narayan Rao went a few steps ahead and felt that the entire concept of censorship was unconstitutional.

According to him, the Censor Board was not qualified to judge films since most of its members were “political employees who did not have even the basic knowledge about films”.

Some of the members on the Hyderabad board for Telugu films were even “criminal record holders.”

“What can we expect from such people? How are they supposed to know what is sex and violence and what is not? Why must the judgement of four people who could be sadists or intellectuals be applicable for the vast majority of Indian?” he asked.

For Shekhar Kapur, the problem did not lie with extra-constitutional censorship alone. Referring to the controversy that dogged his film, Bandit Queen, he said the film was also pulled out of auditoriums after having been passed by the Censor Board.

According to him, dissent was the hallmark of any democratic society

“The state need not agree with the point of view of the artist, but it must protect their right to freedom. of expression, for artists are the conscience of a society,” he added.







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