Roark season

While Oliva at the Mises blog discusses ip in the context of Roark’s demolition of Cortlandt, that is not what this post is about. (I will write about it. One of these days.) I finished watching Gulaal, and came across Kashyap’s two year old Roark post. I have linked to it previously, but here it is again. Then there is this eight year old post by Abbas Tyrewala defending “Paanch” from the monstrosity that is the Indian censor board by using imagery from “The Fountainhead.”

But the Axis had one more ally. More powerful than any other. An antediluvian monster that forgot to die, and was institutionalized by the moral brigade. The Censor Board.

An image from ‘The Fountainhead‘ has always haunted me. You are locked in a room with a malevolent monster, diseased and salivating and vicious. He is going to kill you. You have no weapons to fight it. Your only hope for survival is to appeal to its reason, to its intellect — to explain to it that it will achieve nothing by killing you. But the monster has no faculty for reason. It has no intellect. It will kill you.


Let us not even dwell on some of the inanities, the obscenities and the regressive outrages that the Board has passed to date. These are not the reasons Anurag’s film deserves a certificate.

It deserves a certificate because he made a film with passion and with love.

If today, no voices are raised in protest, in defiance of this murderous monolith, then we lose forever the moral right to complain about the lack of intelligence, the absence of imagination and the dearth of heroes in Hindi cinema.

And then someone comes and says this-

yaawn… i hate it when people start over-reacting to simple events… some fuddy-duddy didn’t get it and he decided to snip some scenes and it is suddenly freedom of expression which is at stake ? what rot !

Anyone who hasn’t given a serious thought to the idea of freedom and how it relates to censorship, or who hasn’t been at the receiving end of some “fuddy-duddy”‘s scissors will never understand what the hullabaloo is all about.

I continued reading the comments on Tyrewala’s post and came across this-

i’m wondering if picasso would ever have been able to have a showing if he’d had to go through a censor. do any of us care about what voltaire, de sade, anais nin, d.h. lawrence, james joyce, boris pasternak, alexander solzhenitzysn, henry miller, salman rushdie, and others went through because of bull headed censors deciding that their works were not worthy for public *consumption*. and do we appreciate just how much they have deepened our collective consciousness i’m guessing that if you haven’t read ‘the fountainhead’ at’s allusions in this article may not have the necessary impact. you need to know keating, for ats perspective on anurag to make sense as more than just mere jealousy. how is say this censor different from the banker who asks for the ornament that makes roark refuse the contract? is anurag any different from roark in refusing to compromise his artistic integrity by just making the changes necessary to get his film *passed*. granted nobody can do a roark and dynamite a housing project in today’s world and live to get away with it, but ain’t it nice to know that roark cared enough to do so … fact is, once you decide to take a stand on maintaining the integrity of your work of art, then you are forced to take head on all of the institutions and collectivized attitudes that characterise a particular society’s refusal to accept anything other than conformance. does that mean that the artist is the problem? censorship is probably one of the worst manifestations of such institutionalised ineptness at work, and saying that one should learn to make art palatable to such middlemen, is to condone the attitude of pathological paranoia that allows them to blight our art by preventing our collective consciousness from growing and dealing with changing realities in the name of shielding us from the excesses humanity is capable of.

Pritish Nandy, while writing on brevity, says

Years ago I remember Rajiv Gandhi once asking me (rather impatiently) for a note on how the media’s independence can be protected and yet a sense of responsibility enforced on journalists.

Protecting independence while enforcing responsibility. I wonder how that can be done.

The Times, in a pragmatic editorial on free speech, says-

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, is subject to several caveats. The Indian state and the courts also have to play a careful balancing act between the rights enshrined in the Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of expression and speech, and provisions of the Indian Penal Code which proscribe speech and writings that could incite violence. Section 153A of the IPC prohibits speeches or writings that promote enmity between different groups; section 295A prohibits acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class. Such laws limit the right to freedom of speech and must be seen in the context of maintaining order in a dizzyingly diverse country. But these can also be used as an excuse to gag authors and artistes. Bans should be imposed only in the most exceptional circumstances. Otherwise they undermine the very basis of a democracy.

I am not proud about the fact that this, once, was my position. The practical man is concerned with the consequences of ideas, not with the ideas themselves. If sacrificing Rushdie, or banning a film or book, results in a few less deaths than would have occurred otherwise, so be it, he would say. The thought that its those who take the law in their own hands who should be thrown into prison would not appeal to him. Jailing a mob is impractical. Gagging one man is very practical. Extremely practical people wrote the constitution. And extremely practical people tampered with it to serve their practical ends. That’s why the laws are the way they are. And people go on a rampage every time something gets under their skin. The artist goes to prison. The vandal becomes a politician.

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  • Kalidas  On September 12, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Completely agreed with artistic freedoms and all.. but there has to be some limit..

    You certainly can’t create pictures of Hindu Gods and Godesses and Mother India the way M.F. Hussain made them and get away..

    What if an artist is biased against a particular community? Agreed that the mob must be stopped at all costs.. but should the artist get away scot-free?

    My opinion on that is that he should be penalized in some sort of way.. for e.g. monetarily.. What’s yours?

    • Aristotle The Geek  On September 12, 2009 at 2:58 am

      # “but there has to be some limit..”

      # “You certainly can’t create pictures of Hindu Gods and Godesses and Mother India the way M.F. Hussain made them and get away.. “
      Why not?

      # “What if an artist is biased against a particular community?”
      Say an artist, or writer, or xyz is biased against a particular community, person, country, group and so on. So what? Why should he be punished for such bias?

      # “What’s yours?”
      Free speech is not a subject matter of whims and sentiments, but of pure logic and rights. In this post, I have explained why I changed my views on free speech. My other posts on the same subject.

  • Kalidas  On September 12, 2009 at 5:46 am

    “Free speech is not a subject matter of whims and sentiments, but of pure logic and rights.”

    It is also pure logic that to reform some people we need to educate them slowly and steadily and not make a mockery of their beliefs straight away. The mental shock is too much to bear for some people of a lower intellect. And what you get are mobs, riots, etc.

    Again I completely agree with your views.. but you just can’t walk up to some person on one fine day and slap his face saying he was wrong for this or that.. It should be the last step, not the first one.

    OTOH, when the damage is mental, the net sum is difficult to calculate until it is converted to physicality..

    Just my two cents..

    • Aristotle The Geek  On September 12, 2009 at 1:56 pm

      Not all beliefs are worthy of respect. If one accepted that premise, a cannibal could come and demand that one respect his beliefs because he is of low intelligence and that anyone not doing so should be thrown in jail. I don’t think many people will buy such an argument. The same principle applies to all other beliefs and ideas.

      Targeting people who have not been involved in illegitimate physical acts of violence, just because they said, or wrote, or painted something, just because it hurt the “sentiments” of people who believed in something, whatever that “something” may be, is like hitting a nail with a sledgehammer. Arun Shourie said something interesting the other day, about Vajpayee having come down to Bombay to unveil a statue of Shivaji just after the James Laine controversy. “The answer to a book is another book,” he’s supposed to have said. That’s the civilized way of doing things. Hounding people, burning books, shops, paintings…people—that’s the barbaric way of doing things.

      People are welcome to believe whatever it is they believe. They are not welcome to demand that others respect such beliefs—not criticize them—and then hound those who don’t take cognizance of such warnings.

      Voltaire had something to say about respect.

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