“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”, said Alvin Toffler. While speaking about the illiterates of the 21st century, one surely needs to paste a disclaimer before one goes into the perilous process of opening one’s heart, to the keyboard. So here it goes: “All characters and panels, depicted in this article are fictitious, and any resemblance to any demon or man, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” It is the early hours of another Friday, the 25 of August, 2017, as I key this in. Ten days have gone past, since India celebrated 71 years of her Independence, from the British, who, in the words of one of our most eloquent votaries of what I would call designer patriotism, left this land after gifting her “an era of darkness”. The darkest hour, my tricolour man, is now! And so, is the “finest hour”. I’m unable to sleep, unable to know from where I should start. But start, I must. Sleep, I ought to. My frustration, in my modest capacity as a writer, stems from the fact that I actually miss the British, because they gave us the silly solace (just about enough to battle this insistent insomnia) that we were actually fighting a foreign force, who were conveniently held responsible by us for all the ills that we saw here.
They are gone, we remain, with no excuse left and with no other way than to tackle ourselves. It is almost like a zombie siege, now. We cannot even wink, for it’s our own legions, who have turned into white-walkers (thanks to GoT), braying for our red. The Indians of today sleep and wake up with the enemy within. The battle now is with one’s own alter ego, which makes love with a borrowed sex toy of liberal thought, comes on to the pseudo intellectual beds of unapologetically colonial bedrooms, and yet squeaks, squeals and moans, in absolute carnal bliss, about the Independence that we supposedly fetched up to our own throats, on that midnight 71 years ago! Are we Independent? Yes! Are we free? No! We are just glorified victims of sustained propaganda, that we are fully free. Are we pint-free, then? No, again! We are just about quarter-free, and that too is a stingily scheduled quota served to us by every incoming Government, as a consolation prize dressed up as an award. Every real citizen of this land, who I know of, holds a serious grouse in his or her heart— a cancerous complaint, which rots as deeply as it spreads widely into his and her being. It hurts him and her deeply, retires him and her prematurely, and finally, kills both with a deftly patronising sucker punch.
Since I’m not Mahatma enough to identify entirely with these comrades of mine, let alone voice their concern, let me just push the keys to give at least a meek draft to my own turbulence, from where I stand. And I warn you, seekers of Entertainment, that this would be a very, very boring read as it comes directly from a mind made dull by a cloud of hopelessness that stretches beyond immediate horizons. Before getting drawn into Cinema, which I once considered an effective placebo to the now platinum jubilee socio-political migraine that throbs and rages on at the temples of this land, I was a journalist. By saying that, I just meant that I was into a business mostly and covertly controlled by vested interests but camouflaged by royal words such as “courage”, “accuracy” and “accountability”. Those were the days when we all told ourselves, with every rising sun, that in our hands was the beacon of truth.., only to douse the smoking stick of disappointment, with every setting sun, in the seas of community liquor that flowed in the self-assured, smug dungeons of fraternity clubs.
Even then, the little solace that I always served myself with, as “touchings", was that there was a destination, called Art, which I naively thought of, to have survived here like a lucky boat, braving this devious and deceptive sea of make-believe democracy, with the great flag of creative freedom tied firmly to its shaky yet steely mast. This night, as I lie floating in the art and business of Cinema, I realise in misery, that I was mistaken. Is Art free? No! It too is not! ‘Not Only’ is it not free, it is also... a ‘But Also’! A huge one at that! And how very sadly so! Right from the time I started moving my pen for movies, I realised one thing. That even as the artist gives his ‘rooh’ into this moving sculpture called cinema, the system starts warming up its muscles to hop in and prefix an “F” to his ART.
The moment a film is ready to emerge, after gifting a kind of pain to its parent that is akin to labour (or even more scream-worthy than that), its nemesis has already arrived at the vaginal door: a psychotic midwife, waiting to pounce at the newborn, eager to maim it into an invalid, and sadistically curious to know and see how the mother cries and how the father flounders at this! Yes, I am referring to the Censor Board, that great and official grand dad of all moral policemen of this country, The ‘deliverer’ of the ‘right’ path, the State-sponsored bully. An autocratic jury, manned mostly by Toffler's illiterates and by default blind supporters of the ruling class. Here you are, in a self-patting democracy, subjecting a work of art, moreover, a work of creative expression, to the mercy of a few politically air-dropped people, who, in the name of safeguarding “propriety", end up becoming undercover mercenaries to every incumbent government. They unabashedly act on the non-printed diktats of the very ruling system, with which true art has always waged its basic war with. These masters of morality are elected with no transparent procedure. And they work to a totally repressive, outdated and prudish instruction sheet, which has been handed over to them by their predecessors, generation to generation. They judge films on the nerve and naivety of their own whim and illiteracy (Toffler's), with no panel or advocate other than the disgruntled filmmaker to stand up and speak for the film.
Personal prejudice is given prime weightage. Artistic priorities are never given any. A one-sided verdict is passed, punishments meted out and sentences carried out at ‘gunpoint’, in a style that would put even Josef Stalin to shame! Tell me, are we free? Great conspiring and mole work allegedly happen, in the dark of the Censor screenings. And since moviemaking is a business that runs on deadlines, with big money spent on the production, it becomes a silicon-soft target for the bullies. Every artiste is made to nod like domesticated puppies, in front of the CB hawks, to get his or her movie out without random cuts, cruel bruises and brutal beheadings. A free and total emergence almost never happens, unless you have made a lame, pointless comedy, replete with masked innuendos!
–To be continued tomorrow...