A couple of my friends were having a conversation the other day about the difficulty of making a film in India that did not offend somebody.
The entire conversation descended into a farce when I chimed in that I would give a crore to anyone that could make an Indian film on a real subject and not offend someone.
The offer was laughed off and we went our separate ways.
However, the more I thought about it, the more true my offer seemed.
In India, the space to make a film that reflects our actual social situation is shrinking with an alarming pace. While films about 50-year-old heroes seducing girls twenty years younger than them during the course of making ‘goondas' fly a hundred feet after being punched are super hits.
You can't make a film about terrorists - that offends certain religions. You can't make a film about caste discrimination - that offends the castes that do the discrimination. You can't make a satire about the silliness of certain times or situations - this offends the people who originally did the silly things.
And you cannot make a film about any political situation - That will get your film banned (most probably).
India has no shortage of gifted actors, talented directors or risk-taking producers. What it lacks is a rational space for these artists to express themselves or their ideas.
Most mainstream cinema shows an idealized world that is so ridiculous that when we watch the film, we have to tell ourselves before hand – "Remember, this is an ‘Indian' film."
Things did not used to be such.
Well into the 80s, most languages were making commercial cinema and hard-hitting social commentaries.
They showed us injustices and hardships. These films either opened our eyes or inspired us.
But somewhere along the line, the egos of Indians skyrocketed for some unknown reason.
Many Indians can now apparently no longer tolerate seeing a truth on screen that they were unprepared to face in real life. Because they use intimidation, violence, murder or riot in real life to suppress criticism, they felt no need to tolerate on the screen as well.
They don't want to see acting on screen. They want to see a supposedly 'average' hero get lucky with a sufficiently pretty girl, whose bosoms heave delightfully every fifteen minutes.
And for those of you who are hoping to pin this sort of behavior on a particular religion or caste, please stop being such hypocrites.
Shah Rukh Khan is being dragged to courts because as a producer, his film Student of the Year called Radha sexy and apparently that hurt Hindu sentiments.
A Mufti in Jaipur issued a fatwa against the film Le Gaya Saddam because apparently it's criticism of the Muslim divorce system was against Islamic belief.
Christians in Goa were busy screaming threats over the film Kya Super Kool Hai Hum, a film so silly that any association with it should have been considered beneath everyone.
Telangana supporters ransacked the offices of the producers of Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu because they said it showed the 'movement' in a bad light.
The Congress party did not allow the film Rajneeti to release unless Katrina's character, who was modeled after Sonia Gandhi, was not referred to as the 'widow', but rather as the 'daughter'. (Like that was gong to fool anyone.)
Some Sikhs did not allow Ajay Devgan's Son of Sardar to release until they were given an advance showing and cuts were made to 'satisfy' them.
All of these films, with the small exception of Rajneeti were silly, pointless and generally could not be considered representative of anything. But yet somehow they were supposed to ‘satisfy' certain people. That's the word they use.
What they really want is an end to anything that they feel is against whatever standard they set for everyone else.
Government-appointed censor boards, whose archaic, and often times pointless, job seems to be to toe the line to whatever group threatens them the most often, just issue dikats - ordering a film to be cut down or face a ban.
All of this is disturbing.
The simplest idea is to not watch the film if you feel it offends you. Why must we all not watch something because a tiny minority of us apparently lacks the maturity to accept that not everyone is going to accept their point of view?
While many may dismiss this all as mere entertainment, the fact remains that cinema is the best medium to convey ideas or concepts to everyone.
And in India this concept is a hollow shell.
That is why we make no good biographies - other than ones like Bhagat Singh to which no one can object.
Toilet humour about homosexuals and cross-dressing has replaced subtle observations.
And you can forget about political commentaries, social observations or even wry off-hand comments.
Thanks to this intolerance, what we mostly end up with is a pre-sanitized, pre-packed mulch that is intended to appeal to as low a common denominator as possible.
And has heaving bosoms, of course!