Friday, January 9, 2015

O ri duniya…

“Kalaa to hamesha aazad hai.”

Raja Ravi Verma firmly states in a scene, while having a word with some of the Congress leaders. He simply means whether or not this country gains independence, nothing can confine his art. Soon after his nonchalant statement, his artistic brilliance is targeted and ensnared. Religious fundamentalists join together and bring Raja Ravi Verma before the court by filing legal complaints against him on the grounds of- offending religious sentiments and manifesting vulgarity and promiscuity. He is assaulted on numerous occasions and is also beaten up. They pelt him with stones and also set his printing press ablaze. In spite of all this, the court stands unyielded in the favour of the independence- the artistic independence!

This tale, set at the end of the 19th century in Aamchi Mumbai, unfolds itself in Ketan Mehta’s much awaited release of the film ‘Rangrasiya’. The peculiar irony here that citing the reasons of the ‘profane nude scenes which will hurt the religious sentiments’, the Censor Board held back its release for nearly 6 years. At last, the film was able to make its way to the cinema halls in November. While watching the film, I couldn’t help but get reminded of M. F. Hussain repeatedly. Hurting religious sentiments, exhibiting vulgarity were the one and the same reasons that M. F. Hussain was accused of, though M. F. Hussain was marked by misfortune. Unlike Raja Ravi Verma, the point in the history that he was born in, was not conducive to serve him proper justice. To add to the misery, M. F. Hussain was Muslim by religion. Hussain’s effigies were burnt in protest, rallies were organized. Vanity and peremptory religion was highly glorified and at the end of the day, the art was handcuffed and sent behind the bars. The more unfortunate occurrence was Hussain’s disinclination to fight for his art. He fled the country. No different were the people, who too were unwilling to fight for him, moreover to congeal and fight for the freedom of expression. No one went against those people, who dared to strangle the free art. The reason for it, is the non-existent liberalness and acceptance. It also lacks wisdom that diversity is an opportunity to grow and widen your perspective. If so and so person makes a painting, or makes a film, or writes a book and I find some of it objectionable, I go completely neurotic, gather around the people with the same thought and conviction and create mayhem by vandalizing, committing arsons, sending threats, just to ensure a legal ban on that particular painting-film-book? What sort of mentality is this? Despotism? Subjugation?

Many people aren’t aware of what exactly forbearance is. It is understood that there is tolerance in forbearance but the concept doesn’t cease at that point. ‘Don’t get fooled while I bear it, you will pay the price when the time comes’ is not part of it. Acceptance is the first step towards forbearance. In it, two types of acceptances are expected- first is other people can have a different set of beliefs, which by the way they do have and second is they have the right to express that opinion through many or any of the media i.e. speech, graphic art, motion picture, writing, theatre, performing arts etc. No development can be achieved towards being forbearing unless these two are accepted. The moment they are, the contribution of the ‘bearing’ falls in its own place. There are no hard feelings.

We’re at a juncture of establishing a civilized culture followed by colonization and living in wild. Till the end of the 20th century, civilized culture was celebrated and prospered. From now onwards, man should start to evolve towards being a global human. Some would deduce being a global human is to embrace globalization. Many interpret this as westernization/ westernization of the entire world. I do not suggest that. Some would also argue that becoming homogeneous is being global. I don’t mean to address that either. Homogeneity, westernization or westernization is fatal for the extreme, yet stunning diversity this world has. According to me, being the global human, being broad minded can be paired to forbearance. I see global lifestyle as different ethnicities and societies living together harmoniously by preserving the mélange, having respect for each other, drawing inspirations and learning from one another. For making this happen, forbearance among one another cannot be superseded. As said by the French philosopher Voltaire, ‘I do not agree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’  This one quote is the paradigm for the creation of a wise democratic society in the modern world.

There are 3 reasons behind articulating this here. First is - the disturbance caused after the recent release of Vishal Bhardwaj’s magnificent feature ‘Haider’. Second reason is - aforementioned film ‘Rangrasiya’. and the third reason is - today (16th November) is International Day of Tolerance. United Nations have announced this day to be celebrated as the International Day of Tolerance. Prejudice is rising to power day after day, dwindling in wisdom. Some die while protesting against such insular groups, while some simply join them. Some dense ignorants are elected as their leaders, minting and shepherding the flocks. Looking at all this, the mind harks back to the verses dating back to 57 years by Sahir Ludhianvi, in the film ‘Pyaasa’-

Yeh mehlon, yeh takhton, yeh taajon ki duniya
Yeh insaan ke dushman samaajon ki duniya
Yeh daulat key bhookhey rawajon ki duniya
Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai
Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai

Jala do isey, phoonk daalo yeh duniya
Mere saamne se hata lo yeh duniya
Tumhari hai tum hi sambhalo yeh duniya
Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai

[This world of places, thrones and crowns,
This world of societies that resint humanity,
This world of those hungry for (material) wealth,
What is this world, even if I get it?

Burn it, smoke away this world!
move this world away from me!
It is yours, you nurture this world!]

The lines naturally take the train of thought to the verses by Piyush Mishra in ‘Gulaal. But Piyush Mishra doesn’t retort to burn the world down like Sahir Ludhianvi.. On the contrary, suggests that this world is volatile, often in flames by petty reasons and needs to be taken care of well in advance, which is positive.

Jaisi bachi hai, waisi ki waisi, bacha lo ye duniya
Apna samajh ke apno ki jaisi utha lo ye duniya
Chhitput si baaton mein jalne lagegi, sambhalo yeh duniya
Kat-pit ke raaton mein palne lagegi, sambhalo yeh duniya…

[Save this world, whatever is remaining in here, as it is,
Think of it as your own, and pick it up (in your arms, to protect it),
(else) it'll start burning in small-unimportant things, save this world,
it'll be cut-bruised-beaten and will be living in nights (dark times), save this world]

-Translated by Madhuwanti Vaidya
(Original Marathi article was published in Maharashtra Times of 16th November 2014)

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