At The Hindu Lit for Life Kamal Haasan and K. Hariharan discussed movie-making, moral policing and the society-cinema relationship

The conversation between actor Kamal Haasan and K. Hariharan, director, L.V. Prasad Film and TV Academy at The Hindu Lit for Life 2014 session ‘Lights, Camera, Censor!: Moral Policing in Cinema’ primarily addressed censorship. But other issues surrounding it such as the taboos associated with the industry and how cinema itself helped the people of a traditional society look beyond social construct were also brought up..

Hariharan began the session by pointing out that the Censor Board for Film Certification today is the least of the problems facing the industry. “The growing democratisation of media has made the Board redundant,” he said. “Where is the real moral policing? The people to blame are us.”

Kamal Haasan agreed and added that cinema is not mere entertainment. “They will understand the effects of crass cinema on society when it comes to that.”

The actor explained that in a country that produces a thousand films, there is no escape from cinema and yet, even now, joining the industry is taboo. “The most dangerous trend today is that there aren’t enough trained people to do films,” he said.

Both also discussed cinema as a reflection of society. “Cinema does not create new characters. It only shows you what is happening in the world. We don’t create Draculas here,” said Kamal. “In fact,I learnt Tamil mostly from cinema, books and friends. Because language comes from people, and cinema is a populist medium. The three people who taught me the most Tamil are M. Karunanidhi, Kannadasan and Sivaji.”

When Hariharan put forth the question if cinema was looked down upon because the traditional caste-based society could not take the fact that it overlooked the caste system, the actor agreed and said, “The industry cut across castes. . Everyone was sitting together and breathing the same air. It was too much for some people.”

And talking about how moral policing has affected investors in Indian cinema, an industry that makes 8,600 crore rupees, Kamal said, “We hear so often of the 100-crore club and many movies crossing this mark. But that’s not the actual revenue. We are a nation of one billion and when an average ticket is priced at Rs.100, it would only take one crore people watching that film to make that revenue. There is a big hole in the bucket.”