According to recent news reports, the makers of the sci-fi film Independence Day: Resurgence, which is currently in theatres, were reportedly advised against shooting in India or about portraying any monuments being destroyed.
The reason: “Indians are too touchy” and that requests to even show an alien invasion attack — which is what the movie is about — on the Taj Mahal on promo posters were rejected by “policy-makers”.
The news has Indians up in arms about the way the world sees us, with the government to blame. It is a staple in movies — watching monuments and famous landmarks being blown up or destroyed, like the Statue of Liberty in 1968’s Planet of the Apes or the Big Ben in V for Vendetta.
Filmmaker Mani Shankar says, “Indian audiences are mature enough to know that it is fiction. No one is going to create a riot on the streets saying they have blown up the Taj Mahal. It is cultural policing to an extent... that’s absurd,” says Mani, adding, “It’s just a movie — it’s make-believe... fiction. You can write a novel on it and it won’t get banned. So, why can’t you make a movie?”
Author Sriram Karri also says that rather than being sensitive, it makes us look stupid. “This overreaction should not be called sensitive — it is plain stupid. If we keep giving in like this there will be a time where we can’t depict anything. If you noticed in every doomsday film one of the important scenes will show the Statue of Liberty broken or damaged due to the forces of nature, no one objects then. So, why should we have an issue?”
And while we can’t do anything about the movie now, Central Board of Film Certification chairman Pahlaj Nihalani says that reviewing such scenes in movies needs to done, keeping in mind the monuments’ “religious significance”.
“If the CBFC is to ever consider a film where our monuments are destroyed, then we’d have to keep in mind that most of our monuments have a religious significance. And we cannot hurt any religious feelings under any circumstance,” he says.
However, film producer Suresh Babu’s take on the controversy sums up what the solution needs to be. “I think it is a personal choice. I believe that if you want to show something like this, you should be able to do so.”
— With inputs from Christopher Isaac, Priyanka Praveen and Subhash K. Jha...