In a recent interview in The Times of India (dated May 1, 2013) Karan Johar (probably one of the wealthiest men in the country) lamented: “I am afraid to give my point of view. I feel so restricted, as a citizen of this country I was promised democracy, but I never got it as a filmmaker. Today even if I want to make a strong point, a political perspective, produce a film – because I may be incapable of directing it – I feel restricted.”
This was an article mostly around self-censorship and official censorship for films.
Karan Johar’s sentiment is more than a little surprising. He should probably take a look at smaller films which have been able to make a point. Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zameen (about the impact of industrialisation on farmers), Gulzar’s Aandhi (thinly veiled story about Indira Gandhi), Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar (thinly veiled, again, but popularly known to have been based on Bal Thackrey) and the absolutely brilliant Peepli [Live] produced by Aamir Khan were all movies with a political statement that did well. Anurag Kashyap and Prakash Jha frequently make movies that have political perspectives. Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Lajja was an extremely strong commentary on women’s status in the society. And these are just a tiny sampling of such movies. There have been movies on the khap panchayat. Movies on female foeticide and infanticide. Movies, in fact, on every possible ill that exists in the society.
The mentioned movies are small movies – definitely smaller than the multi-country, lavish set, huge star cast and big budgeted movies that Johar makes. They may or may not have big names (though the ones mentioned in the earlier para are big names in movies). Many are made by first-timers who have struggled to get finance and distributors. But they have been made. The maker had a point to make and made it. They did get released.
Wonder how they did it. Do these makers have a special kind of freedom? Or were they not Indians? Or is it just that they are able to make smaller films without trying to have the scale, audience and money inflow that Johar typically has? Or is it that they actually have the fire to make a statement and refuse to hide behind excuses?
In this context and in face of these facts, Karan Johar’s statement makes less than no sense. They say that every artist (writer, painter, dancer, filmmaker, actor – to name a few) feels a little trapped in their own genre. Some of them try and experiment with different genres – but are usually unsuccessful. (Outstanding example in authors: Agatha Christie wrote a couple of social stories under the name Mary Westmacott but they were washouts. Do remember that Christie’s are probably the most read books – after the Holy Bible. J K Rowling, whose Harry Potter series made her the richest woman in the world – at one time even richer than the queen, wrote a social book aimed at adults The Casual Vacancy – which most haven’t even heard of.)
Is that what Johar is feeling? Does he want to make “meaningful” cinema instead of the enormously popular but essentially trivial “entertainment” he is associated with? Is he too scared to actually venture into the path he has not taken and is therefore hiding behind flimsy excuses of censorship and being “restricted”?
In any case, if Johar does have a point to make, he should – the other filmmakers will surely help him deal with the “restrictions”.
Image Source: IANS