Some months ago, I got a chance to see Deepa Mehta’s film titled “Water”. It is part of the trilogy of “Fire”, “Earth” and Water. The film had made news for two reasons- Deepa had courted controversy when “Fire” delved into lesbian relationships, and then “Water” began shooing the plight of child widows at Benares, igniting the wrath of religious fundamentalists and also attracting a law suit from the noted author Sunil Gangopadhyay who claimed that the film was based on his acclaimed novel “Those Days”.
“Water” is a pale shadow of what it might have been. After shooting was disrupted at Benares, the cast as well as location got dismantled; Deepa Mehta shifted her location o
Of course “Water” is not the only film thus affected. Films in recent memory that have run into problems include the recently released “Jodhaa Akbar”, The Da Vinci Code, as well and of course politically tinged films like “Mangal Pandey-The Rising”, Shyam Benegal’s film – “Netaji, the Forgotten Hero”.
The Indian Express has been worrying about a growing tribe of Indians who have a thin skin and flaunt it too and is wondering as to why we are so quick off the block to take offence? It is an important question to ask ourselves. Of course the editorial speculates that perhaps the reason is that
But perhaps the issue to investigate is not so much the problem but the solution. Yes
Is that possible? Can we at least become thick skinned enough to at least others to speak, write and make films of their kind and at least allow them to live even if we never get to quite like them? A truly liberal society of course would allow a climate where a lot could be said and then the dissenters would also know how to express their dissent without fear of either courting or cultivating civil unrest. But we are yet far from those gates.
In school, there was a word that we learnt – xenophobia – the fear of all things foreign. In all those years since school, it seems that the word and the world in which we live today have both shrunk their borders and today the line between “them” and “us” is often as fragile as glass. Or to put it differently, if you are not with me in my opinions and it may be in the shallowest of matters, you are against me and different from me.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to look for signs of our common humanity and build on that. I would rather reach for the stone that will smash your window pane or your head, so that I can retreat to the privacy of my den and preen that I have been a bully yet one more day, ridding the world of that dreadful menace – those who do not think the way I do. Yes, Xenophobia is a frightening word, especially when it has shrunk so much that the borders are constantly closing in around us.