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Love in the time of intolerance

Hansal Mehta Photo V. Sudershan

Hansal Mehta Photo V. Sudershan   | Photo Credit: V_Sudershan

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Director Hansal Mehta says his upcoming film “Aligarh” raises the issues of right to privacy

Last week Hansal Mehta questioned the A-certificate granted to the trailer of his upcoming film Aligarh. The film is about a real life professor who was discriminated against by his immediate society and some people in the institution where he taught because of his sexual orientation. Pahalaj Nihalani, the head of Central Board of Film Certification termed Mehta’s reaction a publicity stunt.

“There is some confusion in Nihalaniji’s mind. He is mixing two things. My anger is towards the certificate that has been given to the trailer and not the film. Film’s certification is a different matter and we are dealing with it. When you give a film for certification, the committee can offer cuts. Despite adult certificate they were asking for cuts which according to me are interfering with the narrative and the character’s journey. It is director’s prerogative to accept or reject the cuts. I didn’t accept them and politely told them. We had tea and asked them to give me the letter so that I can approach the Tribunal. That was two weeks back and I didn’t go to the media.” Mehta avers that his anger is about the A certificate granted to the trailer. “What is there is in the trailer that warrants A certification? It affects me directly because I can’t show it on prime time television. It cannot be exhibited in theatres freely. Last night I was on a television show and the channel could not show the trailer because of the A certificate. My film is small. I cannot afford hoardings and banners. My civic sense doesn’t allow me to put posters on the walls. I have a limited budget for television advertising and that also you have nixed. How should I promote the film,” he asks.

In such cases the Board usually says that is a mature subject. “It is not about kids. I feel youngsters should talk about the repressed sexuality. We don’t discuss sexuality at an age when it is important. Discussing one’s sexuality is not immoral. It is imperative in today’s time. The confused mindset leads to rapes, murders and suicides,” he argues.

Some parents fear that such realistic films can give shape to the sexual predilection of so called confused teenagers and take them away from the mainstream. “I understand that. It happened with Shahid as well. I wanted it to be seen by younger men who take this path of terror at the age of 14-15. What we are seeing with IS is a manifestation of that. These are younger boys who take that path never to come back. The mature audience have already crossed over. Also, somewhere you have to understand the intention of the filmmaker and the guideline for film certification says that. Am I trying to titillate or sensationalise the issue? No I am not.”

Mehta welcomes the Supreme Court’s referral of Section 377 case to the five-judge bench. “There is a growing opinion about abolition of Section 377. So I am very hopeful. I don’t see the section revoked immediately. This is the first step. It is a dangerous law in a vibrant democracy. Right now many of us are criminals in the eyes of the law because Section 377 is not just about homosexuality alone. It is about any sexual act that is deemed against order of nature.”

On the religious implication of this point of view, Mehta says his point is that legally two consenting adults can have any relationship. “The film also raises the issue of right to privacy. I believe the Attorney General’s contention is that right to privacy is actually not a fundamental right which is a very serious case. If the right to privacy is not our fundamental right than God save us.”

If cinema can generate perceptions, the Hindi film industry has played a role in the stigma attached to homosexuality as it has seldom presented gay characters in a serious light. “More than serious, it is about understanding the person of alternate sexuality as an equal. That he can be a protagonist. He can have fun and he can lead the same life as the heterosexual hero does. He can be the same Raj. Your Raj can also be homosexual. I am privileged that Manoj Bajpayee accepted the role,” Mehta signs off.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 1:00:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/love-in-the-time-of-intolerance/article8188819.ece

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