Once Shiv Sena goons attacked the offices of Times of India. Don’t remember for what reason and am sure even SS won’t remember now. But my first reaction (instead of sympathy for ToI) was – Now ToI editors would have to pay ToI bosses the ‘front-page fees’ to get this story on the cover.
Such is ToI’s reputation, India’s ‘oldest and number one newspaper’. They have no ideology, no lofty journalistic principles, just a bed-and-breakfast version of print-space where you pay for a day’s coverage.
But something happened today. It seems, they do have an ideology beyond money. They do, sometimes, feel the need to stifle arts for their comfort.
Times of India group black-listed ‘The World Before Her’, a documentary by Nisha Pahuja, from its review pages for all its publications. No review in ToI or Mirror, on web or in print.
Because the film takes a critical look at the ‘beauty obsession’ culture promoted by Miss India Pageant, an event ToI group has a stake in. In a clip described as ‘chilling’ by (generally over-enthusiastic) scoopwhoop, Dr. Jamuna Pai is shown giving botox facelifts to 18-20 year old girls.
(The clip, again thanks to ToI’s clout, is missing from the internet.)
Censorship and Irony
A similar censorship by a right-wing owned publication would have resulted in a much bigger uproar and outrage. But since this is Times of India, everybody’s Maai-Baap-Dalaal, only muffled voices are being heard on the net.
(Since the film shows inner workings of a Durga Vahini camp too, am sure Viraat Hindus are quietly chuckling at ToI doing what they would have done or can still do.)
But what this move by ToI does achieve beautifully is that it demonstrates Nisha Pahuja’s thesis for the film. That at its worst, there is little difference between our orthodoxy and ‘modernism’, between Durga Vahini narrow-mindedness and Corporate fascism, between a Dinanath Batra and India’s leading newspaper. Stifling free speech, brainwashing young minds, and turning humans into ‘factory products’ is the main motto of both our right-wing ideology and consumerist economy.
Of course it’s a huge compliment for any film that it threatens the most powerful of the land. But we can show them how useless such a censorship can be in today’s times by talking about the film, the censorship, may be writing letters to the editors (if people still do such things), or at least tagging them on twitter in all the posts related to the film.
And of course, by going to a theatre and catching the film ToI doesn’t want you to see.