Monday, 20 January 2014

Bombay is more than just a film

Bombay, the Mani Ratnam directed film, attracted controversies like iron to magnet, as though its sole purpose was just that. The 1995, national award winning venture, Bombay, triggered much angst and invited opposition from every section of the society depicted in the film in some way or the other.
Politically speaking, it was nothing less than a nuclear bomb. Bombay faced political ire in almost all the places it was slated for release like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and inevitably Bombay.  The first objection came from the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray who was obviously not happy with the way Ratnam had portrayed him as an instigating religious leader who had a crucial part to play in making the two religious groups stand against each other during the Babri Masjid demolition incident in December 1992. He wanted major chunks of the dialogues of Tinnu Anand (the actor who portrays him) to be chopped off. The filmmaker though defending this stated that the dialogues were a direct lift from Thackeray’s speeches, he agreed to the cuts. The other condition Thackeray wanted to be fulfilled before allowing the movie to be released in Mumbai was the film’s name to be changed to Mumbai. This time Ratnam, didn't relent.

A still from the film, Bombay. Photo Courtesy: Internet
Bombay was fiercely opposed in Andhra Pradesh too, particularly by the Majlis Ittehad-ul- Muslimin leaders of Hyderabad. Their objection was with the storyline: a Muslim girl falling in love with a Hindu boy. The release was suspended after an incident of vandalism in a theatre in Yadagiri was reported. Few objections among the many are that Bombay, shows that the Hindu boy takes a Muslim girl when she is holding a copy of the holy Quran. Some said that when the girl goes with the Hindu boy, a verse from the Quran is being recited.
Amidst all this, who is suffering and at what cost? It’s the creativity of the film and the maker’s artistic freedom which is being attacked. The Censor board should not allow any such pressure tactics, be it political, religious or spiritual, to tamper with the product once it is green signalled by the Censor board. Once you submit to threats from the leaders of one community, you are bound to succumb to the threats of another community as well.  It should not be for the religious or political leaders to decide whether a particular film should be released or not unless there is a direct attack on any religious sentiments. In such cases the Censor board has certain guidelines which reflect its purpose. Certain social, religious, and cultural sensibilities are taken into account by the Censor board authorities. If every film is left to the religious or political leaders to decide which films will see the light of the day; I don't think any film will witness its release. Ever.
A still from the film, Bombay. Photo Courtesy: Internet
Why always look at the darker side? Why always highlight more of the negative things shown in the film when you have bucket loads of good one to cherish as well? Throughout the course of the film, it, through various sequences propagates the idea of unity, brotherhood and secularism. Take for example, the names of the twin boys of Shekar and Shaila Bano. One is named Kamal Basheer and his brother Kabir Narayan; inter mingling the two opposing religious groups through the dual cross-religious name. Till the very end, the two kids are shown repeatedly questioning with utmost innocence whether they are Hindu or Muslim, to which nobody has an answer and the question continues to resonate in the consciousness of the viewers, forcing me to realise a heavy lump in my throat.
Secondly, the way the two in-laws of both the hero and heroine support and help survive each other till their last breath restores your faith in humanity. Incidents when a potential mob comes to behead the Hindu in-law and the Muslim-in law jumps in to tell the attackers that they are brothers is the first incident where brotherhood brings tears to eyes.
Humanity, tolerance of other’s religious beliefs, brotherhood for one and all, and above all propagating the thought that true love binds two souls irrespective of the caste, religion, creed, and race is what should be taken to heart and in one’s mind from Bombay.

The article was featured in  Mix Fruit Salad on 20th January,2014

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