1. What J R R Tolkien and Chetan Bhagat have in common…
In ‘The Lord of the Rings’, J R R Tolkien conjured up an entire universe of dwarves, hobbits, elves and other magical creatures. In Chetan Bhagat’s debut novel ‘Five Point Someone’, the central character Hari Kumar is a student at IIT and yet manages to have sex. (As many IIT-ians will agree), both Tolkien and Bhagat accomplished enormous feats of imagination.
Now, the girl Hari had sex with was the beautiful daughter of the college dean. And they do it on a stormy night, in the form of a quickie right inside the dean’s house. Man, how cool (or hot) was that! In one sweeping stroke, Chetan Bhagat makes sure that Hari lives out the fantasies of every college going Indian guy.
Now, let us pause here. And let us mentally rewind back in time to a point when Chetan Bhagat is in the process of writing ‘Five Point Someone’. And let us imagine the moment when he is about to write this sex scene for his yet unpublished book. What if, at that moment, Chetan Bhagat begins to think, “Should I include a sex scene in my book? What will people think about me? Doosre kya sochenge.”
After all, in India, we are taught from birth to be mindful of what others will think of our actions.
If Chetan Bhagat were to fall into this vicious cycle of personal censorship, and not put in the sex scene in his book, then “Five Point Someone” would still remain a great book. But then, one should ask: “Why is it that, in India, one must be so mindful of speaking one’s mind?
… Is there nothing like true freedom of expression in India? ”
When ‘Five Point Somone’ was adapted into the movie ‘Three Idiots’, the part about the sex had to be modified. And what was the modification? It was this: all throughout the movie, Aamir Khan kept wondering whether the nose comes in the way of a kiss! Man, that’s super lame!
Maybe it is OK to do such dilution in case of an Indian movie. After all, an Indian movie is meant for the masses. But why carry out such a dilution in case of a book? Why should one be pressurized to pander to the masses?
First and foremost, the writer must be completely truthful to his or her own writing conscience.
One must be shamelessly truthful.
2. Be Shamelessly Truthful
Next, let us take up the example of an article written by Arnab Ray at his blog called “GreatBong – Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind”. The article is titled, “The Passing of Another Friend”. In this blog post, Arnab Ray bids farewell to his ‘dear friend’ Sylvia Krystel, who died in 2012.
But who is Sylvia Krystel? Well to the uninitiated, Sylvia Krystel is “Emmanuelle” – the lead character in a soft-core pornographic film franchise by the same name (most connoisseurs will agree that the Emmanuelle series is a historic milestone in the world of soft-core pornography.)
But wait! Soft-core pornography! And Arnab Ray bids adieu to a porn-star as his close friend! Should such kind of low-brow stuff be allowed in Indian society? Should Arnab Ray be banned?
I bet that if censors had their way, this article would never have seen the light of day. But fortunately, thanks to the Internet, blogging and self-publishing, censors are unable to maintain their strangle-hold on intellectual freedom in India.
And as far as the question of whether Arnab Ray should have written such content on his nationally popular blog… Well, the answer is:
“Who cares”! ! !
The writer, for one, should not care. Because all that can do is to stifle the true freedom of expression.
And BTW what a wonderfully written piece Arnab Ray has created. You have to read it to believe it. Arnab writes in such detail about the Emaanuelle movies, as if he were writing a dissertation.
Writing should not be altered according to social norms and mores, even though a certain society at a certain time may not be ready for that idea. The novel ‘Lolita’ talks about a man in love with his step-daughter who is a minor by age. Salman Rushdie has seen ‘fatwa’-s being issued against him for his writing, which was perceived to be anti-Muslim. There are examples in the world of art too – M F Hussein was ostracized for depicting Goddess Saraswathi in the nude.
Who is to judge these creations for right or wrong? The most important thing is this – if the artist or writer were to only care about social judgement of their work, many great creations would not see the light of day.
3. ‘Shameless’, anyone?
Did you ever have your own ‘shameless’ moment?
- Did you read a controversial piece by an Indian author or blogger that made you feel — “Would I be able to publish this under my name?”
- Did you ever alter your creative thoughts to suit social norms?
- And did you ever overcome such thoughts about social censorship? And if so, how?
Next: Tips from best-selling authors on how to overcome shyness and getting your ‘shameless’ out.