All said, be it Padmavati, Sexy Durga, Satanic Verses, MF Husain’s "Saraswati", Taslima Nasreen's, “Shame” , Nicholas Kazanzthika’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” or Meera Nair's "Fire", what has been pilloried and strangled is the right of expression and speech, to criticize, to creative freedom and use the creation to critique a system, thought belief or a person.
However dispassionate I get, I cannot totally forego the traces of mischief and may be a plot for possible commercial windfall in naming a painting or a movie provocatively. This is why I feel SunilKumar Sasidharan must cross his heart and confess to or refute the motive I allege him of.
MF Husain had a host of other names to caption his painting of a nude decorated woman and “Saraswati” was a silly choice. SanalKumar Sasidharan had a plethora of names from which to choose one for his movie. Neither did! That either ought to be stupid, specious or cunning.
The content of Sexy Durga as I can understand has nothing titillating or sexy about the protagonist. So a name that did not have that prefix would have fared uneventful. Just “Durga” would have avoided these controversies. Moreover when asked to change the name the producer over imposed “XXX” on the alphabets “exy” in the word SEXY. Wasn’t that trifle suggestive and mischievous?
Now what right does the puritanical (sic) brigade, be it the Hindutva forces, the Islamists, the Rajputs or any others have to proclaim fatwa and order violence upon an author, a film maker or a painter for her/his oeuvre?
The much fancied the then young Prime minister Rajeev Gandhi who we thought would be a harbinger of fresh young air, disappointed when he succumbed to Muslim vote banks and proscribed Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses and also circumvent the Supreme Court order in the Sha Bano case. Those of you who do not know the 10 years of turbulent and hounded life Salam Rushdie lived, after Ayatollah Khomeni ordered he be killed, must read his autobiographical work “Joseph Anton”. The whole civilized system and governments in multiple countries succumbed to the mad mullah in Tehran who ordered killing of Rushdie. That idiot may not even have read that work. Democratic societies world over being held to ransom by Islamist forces began with the “la affaire Salman Rushdie”.
Now when you say that the limits of expression and creativity are subservient to another person’s like and dislike, you are being a censor and an obscurantist. If you say that terrorists have a right to kill people who put up cartoons or paintings and even novelettes criticizing or lampooning their God or prophet, you are only endorsing the terrorists’ argument that rest of the World must acquiesce and follow their unitary beliefs and not be different or dissenting. What then is the society you are expecting to have? A homogeneous, vacuous, scrawny moronic world? What then about the colourful diversity of thought, belief system, culture, tradition, languages etc that adds vibrancy and interest to life? Plow them down under and cover us with black cloak like Grim Reapers?
In Kerala the ancient art form of “Chakiarkoothu” is a medium to taunt, lampoon, mock, criticize, rubbish, shame, rebuke and rebut a person or system. Kings and rulers were mercilessly critiqued and mocked by the artists; the current art of mimicry is precisely a variant of the old “Chakiarkoothu”.
As much as one has the right to be hurt and flaunt offended sentiments, a writer or an artist must have the right to offend and critique.
If religious sentiments and emotions were hurt by using a prefix to the name Durga or the movie ‘Padmavati”, well what must first be banned ought to be the mythological treatise such as Ramayana, Mahabharata or the Bible. Wherein there is surfeit of incest, misogyny, sadomasochism, rape, violence, sex, sleaze, bestiality, sodomy and whatever you can think of as offensive to the pristine sentiments. I’m told the 12th century treatise of Jayadeva, “Geetha Govindam” which describes the fantastic relationship between Krishna and his maidens the Gopikas , has enough and more that would pale D.H.Lawrence’s , “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” and Charles Devereaux ‘s “Venus in India” . Should they be burnt or proscribed? Well should Khajuraho and Konark be pulled own and the many Hindu temples too? Should Naga sanyasis be rounded up and forcibly clothed or forced into the ocean with millstones around their necks?
It is utterly ridiculous and inane to be anguished over a movie, its name, a painting or a book. At least here in India where we have great tradition of dissent, heterogeneity and argumentation as well as tolerance. To argue that the Abrahamic world are far sinister and intolerant is a childish argument because the choice we have is, should we accompany them and stay like them in a barbaric archaic mental existence or use the greatness of Indian culture to look forward.