FaithWorld

from India Insight:

“Vishwaroopam” touches yet another Indian nerve

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)

Actor and filmmaker Kamal Haasan’s film "Vishwaroopam" was supposed to open in cinemas last Friday, but that's not happening in Tamil Nadu after Muslim groups protested against scenes that they consider offensive.

The tussle over what is acceptable material for movie audiences is the latest example of a recurring problem with art in India. If it offends someone, anyone, it risks being deemed unsuitable for everyone.

Film-makers have never had it easy in a country that is rapidly modernising, but is still largely conservative. One wrong move, and a film might never even make it to the cinema.

Here’s a look at some other Indian films which hit a wall with political or religious groups even after making it past the censor board:

from India Insight:

Are there too many sacred topics in India?

Protests and television debates on the apex court's decision to OK  the publication of a book on Maratha ruler Shivaji, banned in 2004 by the Maharashtra government, has put India back in the spotlight on the question of freedom of expression.

India is secular and a democracy but a country with a billon-plus population -- consisting of hundreds of tribes, clans and castes following myriad beliefs -- can be pretty fickle when it comes to defining 'sensitive' topics and easily susceptible to parochial politics.

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The list of subjects considered "sacred" in the country include the extended Gandhi family, Ambedkar, Periyar, Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Veer Savarkar and maybe a few thousand more people, said an editorial in the 'Mint' daily.

Moscow art curators anger Russian Orthodox church but escape jail

moscow artTwo art curators have been found guilty in Moscow of inciting religious hatred in a case that has highlighted the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox church and its links to the Russian government.

Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev must pay fines of 200,000 roubles ($6,477) and 150,000 roubles, respectively, to the state for their 2007 Forbidden Art exhibit, which mixed religious icons with sexual and pop-culture images.  (Photo: Yuri Samodurov leaves the courtroom, July 12, 2010/Denis Sinyakov)

Among the art on display in the exhibit were works depicting an Orthodox icon adorned with Mickey Mouse, a Russian general raping a soldier, and a Soviet-era Order of Lenin medal over Christ’s head. Leading cultural figures had appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev to drop the charges, saying it heralded a new era of censorship.

Film champions liberalism in conservative Egypt

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The great Giza pyramids and the Sphinx on March 27, 2010/Amr Abdallah Dals

A new film exploring issues of sexual freedom, polygamy and individuality has drawn media praise in Egypt, but its liberal message remains on the margins in the country’s conservative society. The appearance of Rasayel El Bahr, or Messages from the Sea, in Egyptian theatres is the latest indication of an easing of censorship rules, which film critics say reflects government efforts to counter Islamism.

The film’s themes are striking in a country where the streets are dominated by the Islamic headscarf and where, analysts say, the state is battling against the rise of stricter versions of Islam emanating from Gulf states like Saudi Arabia.

In director Daoud Abdel Sayed’s story, Yehya, a young doctor who moves to coastal Alexandria and slowly shakes free of social norms, falls in love with Nora, who leads him to believe she is a prostitute. Viewers learn that Nora, as the second wife in a polygamous marriage, just sees herself this way. Polygamy is permitted in Egypt under Islamic sharia law.

Artist takes on censorship, porn law amid Indonesia restrictions

suwageIndonesian artist Agus Suwage knows what it is like to run up against the religious conservatives. Four years ago, he was hauled into parliament, where lawmakers accused him of blasphemy and of producing pornography dressed up as art. Today, facing an even more restrictive climate in Indonesia, Suwage refuses to be silenced and has made those restrictions the focus of his art.

His latest exhibition, which opened at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute this month, highlights what he sees as a growing conservatism in majority Muslim but officially secular Indonesia. Many of the works probably could not be shown at a big public exhibition space in Indonesia following the passage of a controversial anti-pornography law last year.

“There are more important things to address in law than pornography, like education. But everyone wants to win a political point and on this issue the politics come easily,” Suwage told Reuters in an interview.