It has been a whirlwind of a week in Kollywood, with Kamal Haasan’s film "Vishwaroopam" causing some groups to protest, and being banned from release in Tamil Nadu. In fact, the actor was so upset at the court’s decision, that he made an emotional speech, stating that he would leave Tamil Nadu: "I don’t think they want me here. I will look at all the states from Kashmir to Kerala, excluding Tamil Nadu. If I don’t find one which is secular, I will leave for another country. MF Husain had to leave, now Haasan will also leave," said the visibly upset actor.
London-based film-maker Nelson Sivalingam, the man behind Barking MAD Productions, shares his thoughts on the situation:
Yesterday marked the day a great man named Gandhi, who fought for freedom, was shot, and now it is also the day the hard-won freedom itself was shot, repeatedly. There’s a history of great artists not being given their due in India and here we see history repeating itself, showing no remorse. Not only is it heartbreaking to see a man of Kamal Haasan’s stature speaking of leaving his country because his basic human right has been taken away, but it is also shameful that it has come to this. In the hypothetical situation that he does leave, I recommend the rest of you follow because this is no longer just about Kamal Hassan’s film – it’s about the bigger picture.
If you value the freedom to think, to speak and to express then this is just as much an issue for you as it is for Kamal Haasan. The cornerstone of every working democracy is the freedom of expression. It would not be possible for people to use the right to vote or contribute to the decision-making process in their society without the access to information and ideas, or the space to express their views freely. This is not just about individual dignity this is about upholding the values of a democracy.
Today it’s his film; tomorrow another film – one day it might even be my film. But this extends beyond films, into books, music, theatre, journalism, media…soon you won’t even be allowed to have an opinion. It’s a sad state of affairs that this is not a case of my imagination going wild, as we can name examples of countries where a small elitist group decide what people see, hear and feel – but India, do you really want to be added to that list?
And why so intolerant, India? This quick-to-shut-things-down approach is creating an environment where decisions are now more and more being made out of fear. The fear that particular interest groups will be offended. Well, what about the rest of the country? Are you not offending them by disregarding their right to choose? And who are these people who are so easily offended? Since when did the role of law and order develop into stopping people from entering a cinema to watch a film, instead of stopping the few that were threatening to cause trouble? If someone is offended, then that’s their opinion and of course they are entitled to it. But by allowing this cancerous fear to continue, we run the risk of creating a society that is slave to fringe elements, limiting areas of thought and expression, destroying human mind, creativity and the relationship between man with himself and man with others.
Think about the bigger picture and support the release of this film, because if it doesn’t happen, the day you are told to remove your Facebook status might not be too far away.
The thoughts in the article belong to the writer, Nelson Sivalingam, who is a British-Tamil creative talent. He is the director of East London-based production house Barking MAD Productions, and the man behind One Minute London.