Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anti Censorship: An upper crust fixation

Last week, when the Government of India ruled that two Indian TV reality shows (Big Boss and Rakhi Ka Insaaf) to be moved at late night slots (after 11 pm) and not be shown during prime time, I observed that it did not go down well with the civil society and thinkers alike. After all, isn't 11 pm too soon these days? Kids can easily turn on TV after 11 pm too. In today's hectic world, we are invariably awake- probably eating dinner- at that time, so it's not hard for us to switch on TV after 11 pm. But most importantly, is censorship required? If the viewers want to watch, who are the authorities to not to allow us to?

I've never been a fan of Indian censorship, either in its naked form (the moral types) or in disguised form (structured process) but there is a limit. Though censorship in India is a bit hypocritical and outdated, there are times when someone needs to interfere. The rubbish that gets shown on TV- in the name of reality shows- is nauseating. Both these shows show other people's dirty linen. While Big Boss smacks of voyeurism with people with high notoriety quotient we couldn't care less, Rakhi Ka Insaaf shows drama queen Rakhi Sawant as an arbitrator (I wouldn't liken her to a judge and thereby belittle the legal fraternity) who aims to settle disputes between parties. She dispenses justice in her style; loud, unabashed, even calling people namard (this one allegedly drove a participant to suicide), or where the participants engage in fights so embarrassing to watch it ourselves, much less allow your kids to watch. Ofcourse, many clips are on YouTube where anyone can log on and watch it. Even shifting it to 11 pm slot may do little to curb it's nuisance value; infact the more it is in the news, the more eyeballs it could attract. That's always been the dangers of censoring.

The problem is that once you start censoring, the flood gates open. What should you censor and what you shouldn't. Hollywood classic films like 'American Beauty' are not shown on TV anymore (to the best of my knowledge, or even if they're shown the nudity I am sure would be wiped out), nor is nudity allowed even though it may make sense in certain films, but Kangaroo courts are telecasted on TV in the name of reality shows. Censor such shows and civil society slams them. But the question is: what should we let go and what should we control? After all, not all censorship is bad. The need of the hour is to decide where scissors are really required, because clearly self-censorship isn't working.

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