India: Threats to artistic freedom of expression

5 December 2013

In India at the moment there are heated discussions, friction, clashes, court cases and rows over where limits to freedom of expression in the arts should be drawn or removed, often due to religious sentiments.  


Recent incidents for example are an art exhibition being closed down, a film screening being stopped by the police, and an Indian author sounding the alarm over the situation.

The Indian author Kiran Desai said:

“The past years have been so bad for writers and for freedom of speech in India and people are anticipating darker days ahead. In India they’re failing on two levels; there are the threats from various groups aimed at writers and then there is a complete failure of government and local politicians and police to protect writers.”


Interview with author Kiran Desai on threats to freedom of expression in India

Booker-prize winner Kiran Desai spoke on behalf of the PEN Delhi Centre about threats to freedom of expression in the country.

See on – 4 December 2013


Gay artist Balbir Krishan’s art exhibition cancelled

Art show on homosexuality comes under attack by moral police

Uttar Pradesh-based gay artist Balbir Krishan’s art exhibition ‘My Bed of Roses’ was cancelled and pulled from the Muse Gallery in the city of Hyderabad after organisers received threats from ‘moral police’ – a group claiming to belong to a political party. The group termed the paintings, which are themed around nudity and homosexuality, ‘against Indian culture’ and demanded the the organisers to call off the event.

» See on – 4 December 2013




Film screening stopped by police

Kamal Haasan’s controversial film ‘Vishwaroopam’, facing a two-week ban in Tamil Nadu amid protests by Muslim community, was released in Kerala, but its screening was stopped by police in Hyderabad over security concerns.

See on – 4 December 2013

and – 9 December 2013


India putting further grip on film censorship

The Link Paper – 26 October 2013:
India Putting Further Grip On Film Censorship
Not just ascene or song but lyrics, trailers, posters and pretty much any audio-visual content that is associated with a film is likely to come under the scrutiny of the Censor Board, according to the commendations of the Justice Mudgal committee report.

“The report was tasked with suggesting changes in the Cinematography Act 1952. The recommendations – under examination by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry – have argued that definition of film should not be limited to visual content and dialogues but also songs and lyrics of the number and should bewith in the ambit of the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) for scrutiny.”
The Link Paper



“The level of intolerance today is much higher”

“The level of intolerance today is much higher (…). Today, censorship is happening by private groups – everyone wants to see how one has presented a character or story in the name of religion, history, personality, etc.”
Filmmaker Govind Nihalani on censorship in India

Banned Tamil films

The Kollywood film industry has witnessed several controversies related to films that released in 2013. Here are two of the controversies that shook the Tamil film industry:

• Kamal Haasan’s magnum opus ‘Vishwaroopam’ faced release issues in Tamil Nadu. The spy thriller was mired in a controversy, when some organisations alleged that the film shows Muslims in poor light. Following the issue, the Tamil Nadu government banned the film from getting released.

• Vijay’s “Thalaivaa”, which was expected to hit screens on 9 August, was caught in release issues in Tamil Nadu.
The film’s release was stalled in TN following theatre owners’ refusal to screen the Vijay starrer due to bomb threats they received from the Tamil Nadu Oppressed Students Revolutionary Force.

Source: International Business Times – 9 December 2013:
Top Controversies in Tamil Films (2013): ‘Vishwaroopam’, ‘Thalaivaa’ Release Issues; ‘Purampokku’ Title Trouble and More

India: Rap song about corruption asked to be removed from film

‘Eggjactly’, a rap song about corruption composed, written and sung by Jaaved Jaaferi, is banned form televison by the censor board – and might also be banned altogether from the film ‘Jackpot’.  See on You can listen to the song on Jaaved Jaaferi gives an introduction on live tv to his song, ‘Eggjactly’ India […]

India: Film banned for allegedly hurting religious sentiments

The Allahabad High Court in Delhi has banned director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s romantic saga ‘Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela’ in Uttar Pradesh, India. The order to ban the film was passed on a petition praying for the cancellation of the Censor Board certification given to the film on 1 November 2013 and sought that controversial and […]

India: Growing intolerance against artistic expression

Paresh Rawal, one of India’s best-known cinema and theatre actors, talks about his play being stopped and growing political intolerance against cultural expression in India. See on Film release was hush-hush: UR Ananthamurthy The film ‘Samskara’ was released without much fanfare because there was a threat that it would be banned. This was disclosed […]

India: Artists protest against state-sponsored censorship

A protest march demanded that the Bombay High court immediately release of members of the cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch. Published on on 8 May 2013. On 2 May 2013, artists, writers, journalists, filmmakers, students, cultural activists and actors from theatre groups marched in protest from Sriram Centre to Maharashtra Sadan in Mumbai demanding […]

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