-By Anuja Chandramouli
Denial is the preferred defense mechanism we use in India to help us deal not just with some harsh realities but to cope with the very essence of being Indian. Armored in extra thick layers of the stuff, we are able to close our eyes to the piles of rubbish that adorn everything outside our homes, while inside we keep everything pristine and lemony fresh to help us pretend we actually live in any part of the world that is pretty to look upon. The corruption that coats every part of the country like a thick layer of dust is also easier to ignore than actually deal with in any practical manner. As we pay the bribes or tsk over the latest report of corruption gleefully doled out by the news media we muse on how awesome it would be to have a Batman – type vigilante  to clean out the mess we have made of a great country and then promptly return to the humdrum minutiae of existence to forget the unpleasant chain of thought and worse taste in the mouth that thinking about the state of the country engenders. It is so much more palatable to think of India as the biggest democracy in the world where all Indians are brothers and sisters entitled to rights, privileges and freedom of speech, who love their country and each other and have nothing but respect for their siblings’ religious beliefs, personal preferences and opinions even if it is contrary to one’s own.

Every so often though, something happens that forces us to wake up and inhale the stink of the world as it really is and not how we view it through the matrix of denial and creative imagination. It could be the sight of a man who sticks his head out of the bus and covers a nostril delicately with his index finger to clear his nasal passages in a mighty eructation of phlegm that speeds towards your unprotected head with the unerring accuracy of a missile. Or it could be the arrest of two kids for an innocuous status update on Facebook. Perhaps a horrifying gang – rape and murder case will shock us out of our torpor. Or the relentless persecution of a great artiste which proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that we live in a democracy without actually enjoying the benefits of living in one.

Kamal Haasan’s 95 crore magnum opus, Vishwaroopam has been banned in Tamil Nadu for the nonce and was denied a theatrical release despite having been cleared by the censors. Apparently the film portrays a certain religious community in bad light and that is the only reason for the ban. After intermittent delays while the legal wrangling went on and on, the Madras High Court lifted the ban only to backtrack and agree to the two week ban imposed by the state government. This despite the fact that Kamal Haasan agreed to make some cuts and drop the contentious scenes and certain words. If that does not indicate certain vested interests at work because he dared to pitch a certain unconventional business move, then what does? There have also been reports of petrol bombs being hurled in theatres to prevent the screening of the film.

One wonders how such things can happen in a so – called democracy. Surely it is within a person’s rights to make a film as he sees fit? And those who wish to watch it are entitled to do so while those who feel that the film is offensive to them or their community can choose not to view it? Surely it is as simple as that? Why on earth should a film be banned for whatever reason narrow – minded people can come up with?

Recently a man who had been given the death penalty had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. This person had been found guilty of raping his daughter and was sent to prison for it on the strength of evidence provided by his wife. He came out on parole and murdered both his wife and daughter. And yet thanks to the infinite wisdom inherent in our judicial system, he is spared the death he saw fit to dole out to two innocents who were dependent on him. A rapist and murderer who according to police reports was the most perverted of the six men arrested in connection with the Delhi gang – rape case has been deemed a juvenile and now faces a maximum sentence of three years in reform school. Politicians accused of corruption, murder, rape and whatever vice known to man get away scot free and continue to hold high office. Artistes, users of social networking forums, microblogging sites, the poor and the innocent of course deserve the third degree for largely imagined crimes.

It is an almighty disgrace and a painful reminder of a country that is riddled with corruption, bloated with the gas of  intolerance,  puffed up with raw power and a foolish penchant for wielding it indiscriminately. Small wonder that India is a pathetic excuse for a democracy. This farce has gone on long enough and hopefully, the ban on Vishwaroopam will be lifted soon if not sooner, allowing people to decide for themselves whether they want to see it or not. Or else we may as well start mourning for the death of democracy and the rise of a totalitarianism regime where nothing is sacrosanct and nobody is safe.

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