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Religious protests against movies

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By: Praveen Lance Fernandes, IndiaFM
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
It's common knowledge by now that the controversial film The Da Vinci Code is slated for release this week despite protests from the Christian community. The movie based on Dan Brown's novel of the same name speaks out against Jesus Christ and the Vatican. The call for peaceful protests by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) came on a day when a powerful organization of Islamic clerics promised to help Christian groups launch protests against the film.

This is not the first time that Christians across India have called for a ban of a film. 2005 saw the release of Vinod Pande's Sins. The film revolved around a Catholic priest who was sexually involved with a woman. Vinod Pande claimed that this was based on a true story of a Priest in 1988 and that he has just added bits of fiction to it. Had Pande gotten his facts right, this feature wouldn't have had his name mentioned. Pande's 'inspiration' was a priest who was accused of sexual exploitation but he was acquitted of all charges in the end. So much for adding bits of fiction! Sins being a small film depended on controversy and ample doses of sizzle. Pande did just that. By belittling a minor community in India, he got away scot-free in the name of "freedom of expression." This film was finally cleared by the high court. Of course Pande in no M.F. Hussain who had his film Meenaxi taken out of theatres because the lyrics of one song hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community. Incidentally, Pande next film Red Swastika will feature Mona Chopra baring head to toe to a father-son duo.

Then there is the case of another film Tickle My Funny Bone. The film shows a woman scantily dressed as a Catholic nun romancing a lover with the Church and Cross in the background. It had the tagline 'The story of a sexy nun.' Though it was cleared by the censors, the producers had posters of the films stuck at various places in Mumbai which caused grievances to Christians. It was then seen that the posters were misleading and there were no such scenes in the film. After some protests, the producers of the film apologized and said they would make the necessary deletions in the film. If the buzz is correct there would be a special screening for the members of the Bombay Catholic Sabha and the fate of the film would be at their discretion.

Though another movie Sacred Evil directed by Abhigyan Jha and Abhiyaan Rajhans has avoided controversy, it has a nun whose mind is haunted by a spirit and a witch is called upon to help her. This too apparently is based on a real life story.

According to a priest, "The Christian community does not resort to violence to put their point across. Peaceful demonstrations are as far as we go. Just because we do not issue fatwas> or tear posters down, it does not mean that they can get away with anything. Our opinions should be heard."

One might recall, India's longest running film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge too faced problems after its release. In one scene, when Kajol asks Shahrukh Khan where he had been, he shows his little finger gesturing that he went to take a leak. This was the next scene after he visited a Church. There was objection and the Chopras rendered an apology letter before the movie to avoid any problems.

Well, all said and done The Da Vinci Code will see the light of day in India and all the publicity might prove beneficial in its favor. However, it is indeed sad that despite protests from a whole community, it hardly made any difference to the Supreme Court.

That's the double standard we see by the SC. One might recall Rakesh Sharma's Final Solutions which speaks about the Gujarat riots and its aftermath has been banned. According to the director, this film is based purely on facts and video obtained during the riots. An anti-government film can cause communal riots but an anti-communal film is an A-certificate.

So finally is freedom of expression larger than religious sentiments?

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