'Manmarziyaan' scenes deletion and why Anurag Kashyap has every reason to be furious about it

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By Murtaza Ali Khan

Something unprecedented happened recently which has raised new questions about creative freedom in the country. Anurag Kashyap's Manmarziyaan which opened to rave reviews suddenly found itself engulfed in a major controversy with certain sections of the Sikh community strongly objecting to the depiction of Sikh characters smoking cigarettes in the movie. In a desperate move, the producers approached the CBFC requesting for the deletion of three objectionable scenes without first seeking consent of the director. The CBFC obliged and the details of the cut scenes are as follows:

As expected, Anurag Kashyap wasn't too impressed by the butchery that sabotaged his creative vision. In a fit of rage he posted the mobile number of Kishore Lulla, the chairperson of Eros International, on Twitter while responding to a tweet confirming the deletion of the scene:

The tweet was taken down by Twitter after Kashyap refused to delete it himself. Kashyap subsequently shared the conversation with the Twitter representative in another Tweet.
Now that the aforementioned scenes have been insensitively butchered as per the Studio's wishes it is important to analyze what really went wrong. We often tend to take the issue of creative freedom very lightly. It has become a norm to curb creativity, for artists are the soft targets. Anyone and everyone can target them and there is nothing that they can do. Now, Anurag Kashyap has been the most vocal filmmaker in the country when it comes to creative freedom. And if someone like him can be made to look so helpless one can easily imagine how poor is the state of artists in our country. 

Commenting on the issue, filmmaker Dev Gupta said, The director and the writer are the creative owners of a film. To delete any scene without consulting them first, whatever the compulsions may be, is exceedingly unjust, unprofessional and unnecessary. It weakens filmmakers and empowers bigots." Clearly what the producers of Manmarziyaan did raises several questions about where we are really headed. For how long can we really allow our artists to suffer?

However, a question about the artist's true intentions does arise. Is Manmarziyaan an attempt to reflect the people of Punjab or Sikhs in a bad light? Film journalist Deepak Dua observed, "When Udta Punjab was came, some people said it showed Punjab in wrong way. But what was wrong? When a large number of youth were actually addicted, when police, govt officials and politicians were actually involved in the drugs business then how can the depiction of same thing on screen is wrong?" He further said, "If we are living in a society which has left or forgotten its values, culture etc. then we have to be prepared for the truth shown in the films like Udta Punjab, Manmarziyaan or even Dev D, in which an unmarried girl goes to meet her boy friend in a field with a mattress tied in her cycle."

The above observations do remind us about the state of affairs of the society. They also remind us about the job of the filmmakers. Ultimately cinema, like any other art form, is supposed to be a reflection of the society. And so it's a filmmaker's responsibility to try and capture what he/she sees around him/her. Even the most commercial filmmaker cannot just delve into escapism. But time and again filmmakers have had it tough in our country, especially when they have tried to show the truth. So it is important that they have all the backing. "We are not a socio-politically mature nation yet, and freedom of expression can at best be considered an evolved proposition gone completely askew in its implementation. However, art has the power to change that. And that's why, the people who are responsible for arranging the wherewithal for artists to continue to create art, should stand firmly behind them and back them," asserted Gupta. "It is easier said than done, more so considering the methods that a lot of our fellow countrymen employ to challenge anything that seems to question 'their' understanding of the 'truth'; but one can and probably should try to not cower under infantile pressure and end up demeaning the artist they had decided to back in the first place. It is harmful for the already ailing condition of art in this country," added Gupta. Kashyap has received support from Taapsee Pannu, Vikramaditya Motwane, Kanika Dhillon, who has written the screenplay of Manmarziyaan.
This debate has been going on for some time now but the Manmarziyaan fiasco is expected to add a new impetus to it. But finally one must ask if Kashyap's reaction is justified? Now, he is notorious for his public display of emotions. But often he has a point and here too he is right when he says that deletion of just a few scenes wouldn't solve the problems of the people of Punjab. "In my opinion, Anurag has not shown anything wrong. Many Sikhs are smoking, puffing and if a (wrong) thing is happening in society then what is wrong in its cinematic depiction? If one is doing wrong then it is okay but if a writer (or filmmaker) is showing the same thing then I don't understand why it is not okay," summed up Dua.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!

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