Freedom of Speech in Indian Cinema
Bollywood film industry is the second largest film industry in the world, but the question is, does it have the freedom it needs to come forward as a strong and effective institution?
Bollywood has always been a place of controversy, and the reasons are never ending, one day we talk about creative freedom and the other day we are cutting dialogues and scenes because it might hurt a certain category or group of people, one day we are talking about giving our viewers accurate and knowledgeable content and the other day we end up banning movies which are against a particular political thinking. So there are various questions which might come forward while we dig deep into the freedom and the restrictions of Indian Cinema.
What makes Indian Cinema different from others?
India is a country full of different cultures, religions and political beliefs, where people from every community and every part of the society have the right to express their feelings and demand for what's right for them, but over the last few couple of years, the media as well as people have become very sensitive. Media is openly promoting hate speech and are often blamed for being biased. We are known to produce the largest number of movies and yet we haven’t been able to make it into the mainstream cinema like Hollywood, Chinese cinema, etc. Only a few selected movies make it to the international audience.
The fight between Creative Freedom and the censor board
No doubt, we have come a long way, but the freedom to express your ideas in India is still considered a luxury which not many people can afford. It is often seen that after receiving the certification, the movie still remains the subject of controversies. Even after the changes are made and the censor board has shown a green flag, the government can ask to re-examine the film. This is an issue of concern for film-makers because governments are often biased towards one kind of thinking.
Bollywood has been fighting this for decades now. On numerous occasions films have been banned just because some people think it's offensive and is being displayed to insult them, which results in huge loss for Indian Cinema.
In recent years the reasons for censorship have changed. Earlier, insulting lyrics or sexual representation of a female lead were the primary reasons for making some amends. But now people have started demanding a ban and cancellation of film releases based on mythical or historical figures or even political favoritism. The Cinematograph Amendment Bill was proposed in 2021, which allowed the federal government powers to revise the movie scenes and certification. This allowed the government to cancel the movie's certificate based on a viewer’s complaint. India is a big country with a population of over a billion, to satisfy every single person’s views is not possible and practical.
Many famous celebrity directors and producers have raised a concern over the past few years on the increasing interference of the government, and this is demoralizing the filmmakers as well. Movies like Billu, Udta Punjab, Haider, Lipstick Under My Burkha and Padmavat are some of the high-budget movies which have seen censorship because of one or other reason.
Decades have passed since we earned our freedom but the journey is not complete yet, be it freedom of speech or the creative freedom of any one making content for the viewers. Censorship is necessary but to use it wisely is equally important. Let’s hope over the years Indian Cinema as an industry gets to represent the society as it is with adequate control and not under a supervision to appease some sections of the society!