Between the acts
Sir — It is unfortunate that the actor and film-maker, Kamal Haasan, was forced to consider quitting his home state, Tamil Nadu, following the ban on his film, Vishwaroopam (“Home mortgaged, Haasan talks of following in Husain’s steps”, Jan 31). He said he would need to look for “secular” states within India, or “secular” countries to settle in if such intolerance continues. Haasan is considered to be an icon and his contribution to the field of cinema is immense. It is ironic that even before the ban on Vishwaroopam was lifted in Tamil Nadu, the film had already been screened in the neighbouring states — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. One would guess from this that vote bank politics had prompted the state government to impose the ban.
Haasan has rightly described the 15-day-long ban as cultural terrorism. If the censor board has passed a film, a state government is not authorized to ban it. Moreover, the ban also infringed upon the freedom of expression. If films are banned according to the whims and fancies of state governments or of religious groups, compelling film-makers to approach courts of law for getting their films released, then why is there a censor board at all?
Those opposed to the film should realize that the plot of the film does not demean Muslims. Instead, it condemns terrorist outfits such as the Taliban, which kills innocents in the name of Islam, and in doing so, effectively flouts the basic tenets of the religion.
It is heartening that people from the film fraternity all over the country have spoken out against the ban. Now that the ban has been lifted, the Chennai High Court should take the Tamil Nadu government to task.
S. Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur
Sir — The editorial, “Screened out” (Feb 1), rightly states that “film certification is under Central legislation, and a state government getting the court to ban the release of a film certified by the national board of censors is an act of ‘pre-censorship’ that turns the Cinematograph Act upside down at the cost of a serious infringement of the right to an individual’s freedom of expression”. State administrations — whether of Bengal or of Tamil Nadu — seem to forget a basic tenet. Maintaining law and order essentially means that if a protest — and everyone has the right to protest peacefully — turns violent, it is to be handled in such a way that the violence is contained and the culprits are punished. The desired reaction to such protests is not to stop the screening of the film or to prevent a writer of a controversial book to set foot in a state.
Amit Banerjee, Calcutta
Sir — The move to impose a ban on the screening of Kamal Haasan’s film in Tamil Nadu is yet another example of cultural policing. At this rate, no film-maker will risk making films on sensitive subjects for fear of such unreasonable resistance. This attitude on the government’s part will progressively discourage the freedom of expression and ideas. The state should have taken a cue from the West and left the judgment to the wisdom of the viewer.
Ambar Mallick, Calcutta
Sir — It is a matter of shame that Kamal Haasan’s film, Vishwaroopam, which had already been passed by the censor board, was banned in Tamil Nadu on the apprehension that it will stir religious sentiments. Film-makers are aware of their duty towards society, towards religion and the people. Even if an entity or a group feels that a film-maker has not adhered to the standards of secularism, the matter should be referred to the appropriate authorities or courts. The film-maker cannot be considered guilty of stoking communal sentiments till he or she is proved to be so by the court. Although the ban on Vishwaroopam has been lifted now, Haasan has already suffered considerable financial loss owing to the damaging stance of the state government.
M. Kumar, New Delhi
Sir — The erstwhile chief minister of Jharkhand, Arjun Munda, had promised a job to the acid attack victim, Sonali Mukherjee, in September 2012. Although the state is now under the president’s rule, I do not see any reason why Mukherjee should be forced to face an “endless wait”, delays and confusions, before the state government manages to deliver on Munda’s promise (“No job yet for acid victim”, Feb 4). The laid back attitude on the part of the officials is shocking.
A stable income for the family needs to be guaranteed. What happened to Mukherjee was no minor incident. The officials concerned should feel for her and do the needful, without Mukherjee having to ask for it.
Manoj R. Kumar, New Delhi