Indian Decade

On the Rajneeti Delay

This much-awaited film is an example of why we should be worried about censorship.

In India, we are all used to the politics of censorship. Books are banned here on small provocations and movie releases are delayed or ‘censored’—sometimes by self-styled cultural custodians who take it upon themselves to disrupt performances. Over the years, our filmmakers have often had to subjugate or silently carry out changes demanded to ensure that their films can see the light of day.

But, if it's those who run the country that have taken umbrage to a creative work, we are spared the drama, for changes are simply forced. Although less disruptive, this is certainly a more dangerous trend as it gives those in authority a chance to tailor somebody's freedom of expression.

This is exactly what's been happening to Rajneeti, a much-awaited movie directed by one of India's more influential film directors, Prakash Jha. Supposedly inspired from the great epic Mahabharata, Rajneeti sets the drama in our contemporary political landscape. Reportedly, the ruling Congress Party is unhappy with one of the main protagonists of the film, a character played by the stunning Katrina Kaif. In the movie's trailers, Kaif's character, dressed in cotton saris, similar to Congress President Sonia Gandhi's, is shown asking for votes at a huge political gathering using her ‘widhwa’ (widowed) status as an emotional tug.

The Censor Board which gives movies certification before they are released apparently sent the movie to a high-powered Congress Party group. Director Jha has had to delete the word ‘widow’ and replace it with ‘daughter’ to minimize resemblances to Sonia Gandhi. I think it's worrying for our primary political party to be so insecure.