What Fahrenheit 451 means today!

A few days back, I watched a movie called Fahrenheit 451 and all I could do was think of Vishwaroopam. “451” was made nearly half a century ago, but the theme is so relevant today, keeping in mind the recent developments on Vishwaroopam. Both the movies have nothing in common; their themes different, their film makers and cultures different, and yet Fahrenheit 451 seems to remind me of Vishwaroopam. Over the past year, cartoonists have been jailed, simple bourgeois have been framed for Facebook comments, and novelists have been targeted by bigots. The list can only go on. How much more can one do to stifle the nation’s voices? How much more can one live under the false notion of “Free speech”? How much more can one be an Ostrich, digging heads deep inside and pretend that all’s fine.

“451” predicts the future, the dark dystopian future in which books and writings are burnt by firemen. A future in which women and youngsters are addicted to reality television, and entire mankind is devoid of intellects. The notion may seem funny and weird, but what “451” predicts may not be fiction after all. The events that have surrounded “Vishwaroopam” only reiterate the fact that ideas can be killed, either by the government or by bigots, who in the name of religion satiate their political desires.

Is it an assumption by the extremists that terrorism is blamed on religion by the film maker? If so, aren’t they themselves degrading the religion? And even if it did oppose a religion, doesn’t an artist have rights to voice his opinion? Some wouldn’t agree with me on that , but Mr. Hassan depicted an antagonist as a Shiva devotee in one of his films, a firm believer in god who is evil within and one who thinks that Poojas and rituals can cleanse him of the sins he has committed. Was there a protest by Hindu people at that time? A religious character is always at logger heads with Mr.Hassan in his movies. Hinduism has bared the brunt for many years and yet remained silent. More importantly, will a Hindu Protest cause same consequences?

I firmly believe that a film maker should never take sides and that there is a difference between depicting & endorsing. A story has to be told from a neutral point of view, and rights or wrongs should be left to the audience. There is no morality for a film maker. Even if a film endorses an ideology which may be offensive to some minorities (I don’t mean the religious minority here), that doesn’t give them any right to ban the work of the artist.

The stifling of voices is hurting, but what hurts most is the double standards and selective way in which these things occur. Aren’t other religions, communities equally susceptible to offense? Aren’t the Brahmins offended when selfish and sinister people are depicted as Iyers and Iyengars? Aren’t Tamilians and Punjabis offended when Advertisements shamelessly depict them as caricatures?  There are no protests on that. The “artists” have freedom to express there, but Governments and politicians seem to act only when religion is involved, more importantly minorities.

There can be two ways. One can be a way where art can be completely controlled by politicians and extremists, which can mean that books would be burnt, films would be banned, and simple people may get beaten up. Or else there can be another where a novelist who bashes Islam is invited to a “secular” country, a genius painter can be invited back home despite having drawn “naked” goddesses, and many other artists who have their own views on life, however cruel and offensive it may seem. The double standards have to stop, not only from powerful people but also from the common man. One must be ready to accept things that are offensive to us in the name of “free speech”. I feel somewhere, people talk about “free speech” when they aren’t offended, but forget it when they are in fact offended.

So another blog and another view from an illiterate who doesn’t see vote banks, an illiterate who doesn’t understand stealth marketing, and an illiterate who doesn’t understand religion.

And as Spencer Tracy says in Inherit the Wind,” An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral, and there’s nothing more holy than an individual Human mind”.

This post is to support all artists, whether they paint their thoughts on canvas, type their words on MS Word, or make films costing 95 Crore Rupees.

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