Art Attack: Bhansali Edition

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events and/ or publicly available information. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Saad Khwaja, MBA 2016-18, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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Alas! Times are not good for any figure of speech or expression – be it humour, satire, or art. People have dumbed themselves down to a point where they only understand polarization and the game of binaries oscillating between two ideological extremes. You are either a patriot or a traitor; “sickular” or a “bhakt”; with us or against us. There is almost no scope of meaningful conversation where ideas can earnestly be exchanged, no patience to hear the other side out.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali, a National Award winning filmmaker who has made a sizeable contribution to modern Indian cinema with movies such as Devdas and Black, was attacked by members of the Karni Sena, a local political outfit that claims to protect the interests of the Rajputs. Alleging that there were objectionable scenes between two of the characters in the movie being shot, the group stormed the set and proceeded to rough up Bhansali and the crew, and vandalise the film equipment. The spokesperson of Karni Sena refused to apologise, justifying the attack stating that they would not tolerate distortion of history.

Such groups of miscreants, self-proclaimed moral enforcers, have had their share of attention – taking the law into their own hands and handing out their definition of justice to the “wrongdoers”. It is understandable that some such groups do not understand the intricacies of art and difference of opinion, but what is disturbing is the reaction of a large proportion of the educated masses to this. Without even having knowledge of the script or the end product, a majority of people on various media platforms have sided with the Karni Sena, claiming that Bhansali deserved it because his movie might offend their cultural and communal sensibilities. The Home Minister of the state condemned the violence, but at the same time mentioned that the Sena’s anger was natural.

Such incidents need to be dealt with more objectively, both by the authorities and the public. It is when people lose empathy, refuse to let go of their myopic vision and lose objectivity in their arguments and actions, that we as a people truly lose out.

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