There once existed an organisation in India that went by the name of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).  Its job was to ensure that  the movies made did not have any “objectionable” content, and if they did, to censor and certify them accordingly. Strangely, even though the organisation still exists and is still functioning, one might be forgiven if they assume that its job has been taken over by the  the political parties of India.

As guardians of our morality and sensitivity, these parties have taken it upon themselves to protect our impressionable minds from the cancerous influence of such “corrupting” movies. So when a Muslim organisation raises objections over certain scenes in Kamal Haasan’s movie Vishwaroopam, which apparently hurt the sentiments of the community , our politicians are quick to hijack the issue and garner whatever brownie points they can. As a result, we see politicos across shades- from Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalitha to Uttar Pradesh CM Mulayam Singh, imparting their words of wisdom on the issue. In the ensuing hullabaloo, people seem to have forgotten that the movie in question had already been passed by the CBFC, its role being subsumed into the ever expanding umbrella of our rajnetas.

This interference, sadly, is not a new phenomenon. Our politicians have been attempting to poke their enlightened noses into Bollywood since the last many years. So, we have Fanaa that was banned in Gujarat because Aamir Khan displeased Narendra Modi and we also have Raajneeti and Aarakshan, both by Prakash Jha, that ran into trouble with the Congress. If Vishwaroopam displeased the Muslims, Kadal displeased the Christians. Our politicians, however, presume to speak for all of them.

So why do our rajnetas interfere with Bollywood? For they may be many things, but they are definitely not fools. The fact remains that India is still a land obsessed with heroes. The cult of hero worship, as B. R. Ambedkar put it, is still a driving force in politics and to a large extent, in Bollywood. Our Politicians do what they do because they spot the power Bollywood has over the masses. They realize that if they can exercise a substantial control over our movies, they can, in the process, control their own vote banks. They can, if they so desire, use them as tools to appease certain sections of the society which they perceive might vote in their favor. They also realize the hold emotive issues like caste and religion have over the Indian electorate and the power they have to divert the voter’s mind from real issues like rising unemployment, slowing economic growth and inflation. Why would anyone worry about such mundane issues when they can squabble over whether a movie should be banned or not.

Winston Churchill once remarked on the eve of Indian independence that India could never be a sustainable democracy, for they were not mature enough to exercise their vote properly. He said that Indians needed a long period of benevolent dictatorship before a transition to a democratic form of governance could be made. Our politicians seem to have taken his words as a guiding force. Why else would they be on a benevolent mission to protect our “immature minds” from the unspeakable evils of Bollywood?

The Black Dot Syndrome

Justice JS Verma committee submits report
Justice Verma speaks at a press conference in New Delhi

The aftermath of the Delhi gang rape case cause a flurry of events with the government going berserk with the sudden shift in mood of the otherwise peaceful country. Successfully, it appeased the public by announcing a committee to modify frail laws against violence.

The Justice JS Verma Committee painstakingly made amendments to the existing criminal laws. They sought to tackle sexual violence armed with the 1,600 page report submitted within a record time of 29 days in the hope to deter sexual predators. Sifting over 80,000 recommendations, the aim was to safeguard the interests of women.

But all in vain.

The ordinance that was passed on the third of January contains lacunae that the committee itself is displeased with. The government’s changes harass the prevalence of justice and do little to sooth the agitated public in the wake of the 23-year old who succumbed to the injuries of rape and battering on a moving bus in December.

Highlights of the recommendations made by a distinguished panel like Justice Leila Seth, Justice JS Verma and former Solicitor General of India, Gopal Subramanium were crassly ignored by the government.

The standout point of the recommendations was the removal of ‘death penalty’ accorded to the rapist killers, but the government thought otherwise. By introducing the death penalty, activists say, that rapists now have a motive to murder their victims so as to prevent them from testifying in court.

The ordinance signed by President Pranab Mukherjee is indifferent to key nuances of sexual violence like marital rape. It proposes lesser criminal implications if the perpetrator is the husband and the victim is the wife, even in case of separation. This grossly comments on the ill state of mind that the government has toward this emotive issue.

Furthermore the government refuses to concede to the amendment made to instances of rape by public servants and armed personnel. Prior sanctions as is protocol to the existing laws result in delayed justice.

The government refused to recognize rape in special circumstances such as Army rule or communal riots. With Soni Sori’s case and the scores of rape reports in Kashmir, the North Eastern states and during the 2002 Gujarat Riots, there are loopholes yet to be filled.

The ordinance did not acknowledge the removal of the ‘two-finger’ test done on alleged rape victims for evidence.

So has the brutality really stopped?

One can only question. Adding to the apathy, it does not include stripping, torturing and sexual humiliation of lower caste women in the ambit of sexual violence.

Thus, the ordinance passed by the government, simply put is eyewash. The hurriedness with which it acted to implement the changes has resulted in a highly contradictory and confused statement of law. By ignoring proposed reforms such as the installation of GPS in police vans and PCRs, the government is merely scratching the surface of India’s fastest growing crime. It is much likely to continue to do so ignoring the fervent cries of a scared public.

The government’s actions are like the Black Dot statement that trended on Facebook. On two levels it serves as a remark. On one hand it is a mark of insult on the government’s inability to act maturely and on the other, it acts on similar lines posing as an intermediate solution with more problems than solutions.


Marketing or journalism, rural India is the next destination

“Things are changing like never before,” said rural marketing expert Pradeep Lokhande.

“Today, urban markets are all about product upgradation,” the Rural Relations CEO explained, addressing students at Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication.  “But growth lies in the markets of rural India. And that’s why no company can choose to ignore the rural markets.”

There was a time, he said, when “video on wheels” represented the premier tool for reaching out to village consumers. As many would have seen in Bollywood movies, brand promoters would roll into town early in the day and start spreading word about an evening show. In the meantime, marketers would utilise time by distributing free samples wherever viable or holding demonstrations of electronic goods and other products. “This technique doesn’t really work now,” Lokhande said. “Most of the families own TV sets, which means they have access to movies, shows and advertisements too.”

Lokhande’s company is one of India’s largest rural-oriented organisations, with a presence in 11 states and ongoing work in more than 60,000 villages. Drawing upon his 19 years of engagement in village marketing and social engineering projects, he offered students five ways of reaching out to rural India for successful brand positioning and product visibility.

“One of the interesting aspects I have noticed,” he said, “is that the point of contact in villages is usually the secondary school children. They become the opinion leaders. Hence, it is advisable for marketers and journalists to reach out to these children at first.”

Apart from conventional techniques, such as outdoor advertising, wall paintings and POP (Point of purchase), Lokhande stressed the importance of bazaar days and fairs in rural India. “There are 25,000 fairs every year in this country,” he pointed out. “More than a crore attend these fairs. I think this is the best location or period to launch a product.”

Reporting for this article took place at “Opening the Indian mind,” a SIMClairvoyance seminar held Dec. 5, at SIMC. SIMClairvoyance is a forum where professionals share their experiences, insights and foresights with the students.

Pradeep Lokhande addresses the students as Dileep Padgaonkar, RK Laxman Chair Professor and Ramesh Menon, professor and renowned journalist look on. Picture Courtesy – Srikanth Prasad Nishtala