About 500 Words Columns

Keeping an ‘i’ out for censorship, no matter vat

Bollywood has an extra ‘i’ floating around. It came from the movie Padmavati which changed its name by deed poll to Padmavat, and will probably remain that way till someone discovers that ‘vat’ means ‘a large vessel especially for holding liquors in an immature state’.

And then the manure will hit the fan again. Our queen Padma in a large vessel especially for holding liquors? They will ask before rushing off to burn a bus or two. And which is the immature state? Rajasthan? Bollywood? Is Bollywood a State? While that is being sorted out, they will shut down theatres, talk threateningly of our glorious past, and demand that beef eaters drop all consonants from their names.

I suspect by the time the movie is released it will be called Padmava or worse. Nonsense words are so much more politically correct. They don’t mean anything beyond themselves. Still, if we have learnt one thing it is that anything can offend us, and any reason is good enough. Letter-by-letter censorship might mean we might finally watch a movie called ‘P’, and since that is redolent of something too, we might end up watching a movie with no name. “Have you seen _?” is not expected to be a conversation opener.

In any case Sanj Leel Bhansal is taking no chances and has promised to drop all the vowels with which his three names end to suggest that he may be a fictional character too. A committee consisting of movie directors whose names end in vowels apparently suggested this to the censor board for the sake of peace and harmony or “peac and harmon” as the censors have got into the habit of saying.

If only we had thought of this earlier. Vowel-removal as censorship. Nabokov’s Lolit, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the R, James Laine’s Shivaj, Taslima Nasreen’s Lajj, Javier Moro’s The Red Sar, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Cod, Rohinton Mistry’s Such A Long Journ are only some of the books that might not have incurred the Censor-General’s wrath if the publishers had had the sense to drop the vowel at the end.

Perhaps Oedipus Rex has been portrayed incorrectly in Sophocles’s play, and something was lost in the translation. He didn’t gouge his eyes out, he merely gouged his ‘i’ out and was known till he died as Oedpus. Perhaps Gandhi, or as Attenborough’s movie might have been called, Gandh, actually said that an i for an i will make the whole world blnd.

Bollywood, I hear, is contemplating making a movie called the Ran of Jhans. That is not expected to hurt cultural or historical sensitivities of any group anywhere since it will arrive pre-censored, having dropped not one, but two ‘i’s. Blind freedom fighters are bound to be popular, the producers reckon.

Movie-maker Federico Fellini once wrote, “Censorship is advertising paid for by the government.” In 1960 he made a movie with a vowel-ending, La Dolce Vita, and sure enough it was banned in some countries.

(Suresh Menon is Contributing Editor, The Hindu)

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 10:50:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/suresh-menon-column-about-500-words/article22438988.ece

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