In a week where the debate around the world has been about the freedom of expression, the Indian censor board has done us great disservice by refusing to clear MSG: The Messenger of God featuring self-styled guru Ram Rahim Singh. The trailer of the video already has a million hits on YouTube and it doesn’t look very different from most Bollywood movies with item numbers, mindless action and a rockstar lead actor. Replace Baba with Salman Khan in the flick, and it would probably earn Rs 200-crore at the box office. Chairperson Leela Samson said: ‘It has been unanimously decided to refer the film to the tribunal FCAT.’
Apparently, the movie has Ram Rahim Singh depicting himself as a God, and board members objected to him showing himself performing miracles and curing terminal diseases. How is this different from countless Bollywood movies where a middle-aged man beats thousands of men single-handedly and dances with girls half of his age? If showing illogical things was a crime, we’d have a big problem. We’ve doctors treating amnesia with bumps, heroes giving birth with vacuum cleaners and I really don’t want to talk about Humshakals and give the readers more grief. If we were going to stop movies from releasing based on quality, you’d have to shelve 90% of the Bollywood movies released each year! Most popular movies are just an exercise in the glorification of the hero while making sexist, racist, homophobic and illogical comments. (Read: MSG: The Messenger of God release stayed by censor board on fears of communal violence)
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh for his part said: ‘The only aim of the film is to spread messages against social evils like drug addiction, female foeticide. There is nothing wrong in it. The film is in the process of screening before the censor board and if the board finds any portion of the film objectionable, I will happily get them removed. I have not showed myself as God but as a human. I have not criticised any religion in the film.’
And even if he has shown himself as a God, how’s that wrong? If Himesh Reshammiya can release movies which portray him a superstar who is being chased by girls, then Gurmeet can do whatever he wants. That’s his fundamental right! Earlier the Home Ministry released an advisory saying: ‘Various Sikh organisations and individuals are opposing the movie on the ground that its release would disturb the communal harmony and law and order. They also opine that glorification of DSS chief, facing serious criminal cases, should not be allowed.’
Again, if movies can be released showing the glorification of underworld figures, then there’s no case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. The Censor Board’s decision smacks of high-handedness considering they allowed movies like PK, Haider, OMG, Vishwaroopam and Chakravyuh to release. In fact, in a land where Bigg Boss is the number one show on TV, I don’t think we can talk about banning anything.
In light of the events that followed Charlie Hebdo, we must remain a society where no one’s right to free speech is curtailed, no matter who is hurt by that speech. Either that or we give in to the extremists and ban everything.