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Last Updated : Dec 29, 2018 07:58 AM IST | Source:

The Accidental Prime Minister: Claims on artistic freedom by BJP and Congress seem hollow, hypocritical

The flick has given BJP and the Congress another subject to trade barbs.

Aakriti Handa @aakriti_handa

The year 2018 had begun on a controversial note for the Hindi film industry with the controversy surrounding Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus Padmaavat.

It seems 2019 will be no different as The Accidental Prime Minister, based on the eponymous book by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's media advisor Sanjaya Baru, is set to hit the screens on January 11.

The flick has given BJP and the Congress another subject to trade barbs. While Congress is wary of "misrepresentation of facts to malign the party and former party president Sonia Gandhi", BJP seems a little too enthusiastic about the "riveting tale of how a family held the country to ransom for 10 long years".


In fact, BJP IT-Cell chief Amit Malvia also took a dig at Congress, telling them to "stand up for artistic freedom".

However, when it was time to stand by Padmaavat, artistic freedom seemed to be an alien concept for BJP. At that time, incidentally in Madhya Pradesh, it was former chief minister and BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chauhan who had said that the film will not be released in the state even if it was passed by the Censor Board “as it disrespects Rashtra Mata Padmavati”. He even announced that the saga of Rani Padmavati will also be as part of the state’s school curriculum.

Meanwhile, in Rajasthan, which was the hotbed of protests during the Padmaavat controversy, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje had written a letter to the I&B Ministry to not release the film in the state citing law and order issues.

Both the leaders had even approached the Supreme Court demanding the ban of the film. When the period drama finally managed to release, it was banned in at least four states, including Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat – all ruled by the BJP at that time.  And just to reiterate, the film was based on a ballad written by Jayasi.

But it would be wrong to let Congress off the hook. The party is historically known to ban films which have the slightest relation with the Gandhi family. For instance, the Grand Old Party had banned Sanjeev Kumar-starrer Aandhi as they felt that the film was allegedly based on Indira Gandhi's life. It was released in 1977 after a change of government at teh Centre. Similarly, the 1977 movie Kissa Kursi Ka was banned as it allegedly lampooned the Emergency.

To cite a more recent example, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar faced unwarranted backlash from Congress workers. Since the film was set against the backdrop of Emergency, Maharashtra Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam demanded that the film be privately screened before the Congress before it hits the theatres. Déjà vu much?

In fact, Indu Sarkar’s promotional event had to be cancelled in Nagpur with Congress leaders vehemently opposing the release of the film.

What seemed to be a silver lining in the clouds that shroud the artistic freedom in our country, was when Congress President Rahul Gandhi okayed a line which had a derogatory undertone associated with his father Rajiv Gandhi in Netflix's drama Sacred Games. The director of the show, Anurag Kashyap had rejoiced at the tweet:

Now, it seems the clouds are back again and a storm is about to gather momentum.

But to be champions of artistic freedom in this country is like building a beautiful garden over a graveyard.   

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First Published on Dec 29, 2018 07:58 am
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