Tibet Flag Raises Ruckus in Bollywood
Censorship is tricky business when it comes to media. Director Imtiaz Ali recently inspired the ire of Tibetan protestors for cutting a scene showing the Tibet flag on the orders of India’s censor board.
As the world’s largest democracy, Indians take pride in upholding the principle of freedom of speech. Like most western countries, Indians can theoretically express whatever they wish, with some carefully defined exceptions. However the issue becomes convoluted when politics, history, and culture are involved.
According to The Times of India, the problematic scene featured popular male lead, Rabnir Kapoor, singing “Saada Haq” (Our Right) while fans in the background waved the Tibetan flag.
The scene was filmed at the Norbulingka monastery in McLeod Ganj, a town in the foothills of the Himalayas that is home to the Tibet government in exile in India and the Dalai Lama.
The flag, which features a rising sun on red and blue, is symbolic of Tibet’s resistance to Chinese rule.
With the deletions, the film was given a U/A (under adult supervision), reported the Times of India, which went on to quote the explanation by Pankaja Thakur, chief executive of the Indian censor board: “ Beijing is extremely sensitive to any activity seen as “anti-China,” and the presence of the Dalai Lama and the large Tibetan exile community in India is a constant irritant in relations between Asia’s future superpowers.
Naturally the deletion angered Tibetan activists in India who said they planned to stage rallies across India to protest the decision.
“It is extremely disturbing that such a grotesque violation of free speech is occurring in the world’s largest democracy,” said Dorjee Tseten, the country director of Students for a Free Tibet, in a website post.
Ali, who is considered one of India’s most successful directors, denies any political agenda in the film: “I don’t see anything controversial in either the intention or portrayal of the scene,” he told the national NDTV news channel, saying the song was supposed to be about personal freedom.
Although the scene has been removed from the movie, clips of the song showing the flag can still be viewed on You Tube.