05-11 Feb, 2013
small world
Come Again

MUMBAI ~ Sherlyn Chopra’s nude form will come alive once again, this time in 3D. Kamasutra 3D, which stars the soft porn actress, will be an iconic movie, promises its director Rupesh Paul. “And if you call it porn, so be it,” he says.

Paul incidentally has also made Saint Dracula 3D, which was shot with a firang cast and crew and is the first 3D Dracula movie ever. That movie gave him the momentum to raise funds for Kamasutra 3D, a dream project of his. “Everyone thought I want to make porn and it was hard to convince people that it was going to be aesthetically shot. But it will be clear when the movie releases at Cannes in May.”

Paul’s movie is not based on the original text by Vatsyayana. This Kamasutra was written by a celibate guru in Mughal India. Paul says the story is unlike the original because it talks about “making your wife into 40 women” instead of “seducing 40 different women”. The movie will adhere to traditional Indian family values, but it will not compromise on nudity where it’s needed. “Our contemporary family values are just a hangover of Christian British values. I am following our ancient values. There will be a lot of sexual content in keeping with that. I promise you it will be remembered forever.” Actress Sheryln Chopra is taking the iconic bit a little too seriously. She refused to talk to us unless we put her on the cover.

Take Two
The Danger of Being Famous
Three back-to-back cases of ‘cultural terrorism’ is something, even by Indian standards

In 2000, after the movie Hey Ram was released, a rediff.com report read: ‘Incidents of violence, mostly by Congress workers (tearing posters of the film and damaging properties of cinemas screening the period drama) have been reported from cities like Calcutta, Varanasi, Nagpur, Indore, Bhopal, Jaipur etc.’ It was not just the Congress. The movie shows an ordinary man out to seek revenge for his wife’s murder during the Partition riots. He joins a radical Hindu group and plots to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. The BJP found it anti-Hindutva. The Muslims objected to it because they felt it showed them as responsible for the riots. Kamal Haasan, its director, had achieved the difficult task of offending everyone across the spectrum.

His co-star, in a special appearance, was Shah Rukh Khan. It is ironic that in just the past two weeks, both these men find themselves again facing what Haasan calls ‘cultural terrorism’. The release of his movie, Vishwaroopam, has been delayed because fringe Muslim groups felt it portrayed their community as terrorists. An article Shah Rukh wrote on his identity as a Khan is being deliberately misconstrued as anti-national. Rubbishing the inference that he finds himself unsafe in India, he said he was experiencing déjà vu. He was not talking of Hey Ram, but the time when the Shiv Sena used the presence of Pakistani players in the IPL to target him. They threatened to disrupt the screening of My Name is Khan.

Hey Ram had an intelligent premise: a man’s journey from absolute hate to redemption. Vishwaroopam promises to be brainless action fare if you go by its promos and other recent works of Haasan, like Dashavataram. It is not a movie that merits an agitation, if at all there is a measure for such things. But that is immaterial. If there is a rabid man with a little rabid crowd behind him, the system gangs up with him because what it is really afraid of is a disruption of order.

Cultural terrorism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because someone says something is offensive, it becomes offensive. Millions of Muslims genuinely detest Salman Rushdie but about 0.1 per cent would have read The Satanic Verses. All it needed was for stray voices to say Vishwaroopam was offensive and it has become offensive without anyone seeing the movie. Once this has momentum, even moderates start speaking with qualifiers—‘I haven’t seen the movie, but if the censors have cleared it, it should not be banned.’ Judges give odd advice about arriving at an amicable solution. If that is the key to unlock every conflict, why have courts? Or why even have laws? It is the old Indian middle path at work—let’s just paper over this headache and move on with our lives.

That is never going to happen. There are hundreds of thousands of politicians and religious leaders in India. They are ambitious, and the pursuit of power is a career like anything else. They are constantly looking at breaking into public consciousness. Like investment bankers swinging a big deal after working on 20 possible mergers, the business of public outrage also depends on big hits.

A third instance of cultural terrorism was at the Jaipur Literature Festival last week when sociologist Ashis Nandy spoke about a majority of corruption now being a preserve of OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. To him, it was a good thing because in a convoluted egalitarian way it balanced out the spoils of the system. The seeping down of corruption indicated India’s development and social progress. Nandy’s point was also about upper castes getting sophisticated about corruption. His argument, though nuanced and a little clever by half, is not very difficult to understand. It is also not radical. If you take OBCs, SCs and STs together, they make up more than two-thirds of the population. Obviously, if the entire country is corrupt, they are going to be in a majority.

Ordinarily, a counter to an argument is an argument. Instead, Nandy now faces a police case after a politician decided that he will claim his two minutes of fame. You would think that a sociologist is too small a fry to become a target. And that is true. Last year, the Jaipur litfest had a more worthy target—Salman Rushdie, whose participation had to be cancelled following a sudden agitation by some local Muslim leaders. Since then, the litfest itself has become a means for easy publicity. Nandy is the corollary. A reminder that if you have the ability to pull a large audience, this is a country where you must tread on glass pieces before opening your mouth.

Repeat offence
Forgive Them Lord

When they warn you about the dangers of downloading from the cyber world, this is probably what they mean. A ‘blasphemous’ image of Jesus Christ, holding a cigarette and a beer can, has led to a series of apologies over the past three years by those who had lifted it freely from the internet.

The latest to be stung is Tanaji Dnyandeo Lonkar, a former Shiv Sena corporator from Pune. The image was part of a 2013 calendar that was printed and distributed by him. As soon as it was published, Christian groups rose in protest. On 7 January, two lawyers filed a complaint with the Pune police commissioner and later initiated legal action against him. Lonkar, who says he is innocent, has withdrawn the calendar and blamed the printer for downloading the picture from the net.

Joseph Dias, of Christian Solidarity Forum, says his organisation has been tracking the offensive picture, and that it originated in Malaysia. It was first published in August 2007 by Makkal Osai, a Malaysian Tamil-language daily. They later apologised. Then, in February 2010, the authorities of St Joseph’s Girls’ Higher Secondary School in Meghalaya found this image in a textbook for primary school students. Placed near the letter ‘I’, its intended purpose was to make students say, “‘I’ for idol.” The textbooks were confiscated and the school principal filed an FIR against the Delhi-based publisher.

Recently, a Bangalore-based vernacular daily published the same image, and its editor had to issue a front-page apology after prominent citizens from the community protested. The picture has also surfaced in Gujarat, but here it was in a Christian journal. Dias says that Christian groups have approached Union Information Technology Minister Milind Deora to get the image removed from the internet. “As long as it’s there, people will continue to use it,” he says.