Mumbai: The poster for Mallika Sherawat’s upcoming film Dirty Politics caused a stir when it was unleashed, as it depicts the actress nude, except for an artfully draped swathe of tricoloured fabric. While the film’s director, K.C. Bokadia has defended the poster, saying that since there is no Ashoka Chakra in the centre, it can’t be called the national flag, pressure from certain groups has mounted to change the image used. This isn’t the first instance of a celebrity getting into trouble over perceived disrespect to the national flag. From actresses/models who’ve chosen to pose with the flag, to an incident when Shah Rukh Khan faced flak for waving the tricolour upside down to the allegation against Sania Mirza for “dishonouring” it, there have been several cases reported.
Those in the film industry have had mixed reactions to the latest controversy. Boishali Sinha, the art director at Prakash Jha’s production house feels that there is a tendency to be hypersensitive where national symbols are concerned, and that’s why so many issues are raised around the national flag. “Keeping that in mind, putting a naked Mallika Sherawat with a flag on the film’s poster is like inviting trouble. We all have special sentiments about our country and flag that demand respect. So irrespective of the liberty that art and cinema must enjoy, certain things should not be controversially depicted.”
Just like religious issues, certain subjects are better left untouched. Being an artist, I would never misuse my liberty in a way that might hurt someone’s sentiments,” Boishali avers. Director and screenwriter Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan feels that often, there is a tendency to deliberately stoke a controversy to promote a film, and that an incident like this, is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. “Creating a buzz in the market about your film is the gateway to amplified box office collections,” he says, and adds, “I feel that gimmicks like these are defunct, and are ridiculed by the intuitive Indian. We are here to create cinema, not controversies. The sooner it is realised, the better.”
While abroad, you often see celebrities wearing their country’s flags or using it as an accessory, in India, the National Honour Act, 1971, and amended in 2003, strictly governs how the tricolour is to be treated. It states that “if any person at a public place burns, disfigures, tramples upon, or disrespects the flag, he/she shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both”, says lawyer Ashpreet Singh Sethi. “The disrespect to the national flag means, and includes, using our national flag as a portion of costume or uniform of any description, or embroidering or printing it onto cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins or any dress material.”...