I will let you in on a top secret today. I just love censorship. I am happy that Tandav was slapped with an FIR. Quite deserving, if you ask me. I think censorship is extremely important in the decadent times we are living in and more so because the world is so overpopulated by vermin of a certain kind who are just accelerating that decadence. I just so love the idea of snipping and trimming and making smaller things disappear for bigger things to be clean and “proper”.
Perhaps I developed this fetish for censoring from my days in the print media where I had editorial responsibilities and had the power to decide the fate of writeups that came to my desk. It gave me a sense of authority and control and so I completely get those who demand censorship all the time. It gives them an indirect sense of power and control.
And I believe it also allows them as it allowed me then to show people the correct path, to give them a correct prism and also the correct vision and at the end of the day feel content that they have done their bit in the ongoing project of safeguarding their culture and removing the blackheads that keep coming up. How else are we supposed to uphold the values of this 5000 year-old civilisation otherwise? So if you ask me, I am very happy with all the censorship that has suddenly seen a huge upsurge in recent times.
And FIRs like the one now on Tandav are absolutely necessary because I feel they are the only way to tick off these pseudo-creative bohemian self-proclaimed intellectuals whose works are not merely populating but more importantly polluting OTT platforms and why, our sensibilities of course! Fancy, having to tell you that.
What bothers me though is why only contemporary films and web series like Tandav? When we are so committed to a cultural sanitation drive, a “Sanskritik Swachhata Abhiyaan”, why not just pull everything out of Pandora’s box, inspect them one by one, clean them, trim the hurtful ends and put out the squeaky clean sparkling pieces on display? I am elated to hear that the creators of Tandav, a most controversial and badly-directed web series have actually removed the scenes which show Shiva in a berating light. Let me tell you when I was watching it, my blood began to boil. How dare they thus destroy the image of the “Destroyer” of the universe? I would have marched off to the nearest police station to file an FIR myself if they hadn’t done it.
And then I was just so worked up and so overwhelmed by the need to punish and accuse that I tried to recall more offensive material on Shiva; it was almost too easy, so easy that I wondered why no one had ever thought of it before this: the blasphemous song, “Jay Jay Shiva Shankara”. I went on Youtube to view the song with fresh eyes that had been made to see the desecration of gods. And I was aghast at what I saw. How had I overlooked this blatant and shameless trivialising of the Shiva temple? How on earth had people of those times missed it? How was it possible that my parents had never experienced or shared their outrage with us? I mean you need to watch the song to understand what I am trying to say.
Both Mumtaz and Rajesh Khanna are tipsy in the song, in addition to Mumtaz looking extremely sexy with a lot of skin to show. But what is absolutely unacceptable is that this extremely tipsy couple is sitting on the steps of a Shiva temple and what’s more, Rajesh Khanna actually has his shoes on and like I said Mumtaz looks sizzling like she always did. But that would be okay in a party, right? Not on the steps of Shiva’s temple.
And then the duo goes on to sing, hailing “Shiv Shankar” and trying to justify their transgressive behaviour and the clearly erotic energy they feel, attributing it to the bhaang they had in the name of Lord Shiva: “Pyaala tere naam ka pia” and what’s more, the not-so-sober heroine is unabashedly soliciting support (what kind we do not know but can surely guess?) from her lover in the precincts of the Shiva temple failing which she says she will “roll over and die” (not in the literal sense of course).
Really, I mean I am so ashamed of this generation of viewers for this unforgivable oversight. Did they know anything at all about Hinduism and religion? And were they even capable of experiencing any kind of sentiments, religious or otherwise? People back then must have been so naïve, so crass, so uncaring, so unseeing and so so so unintellectual. I mean they completely failed to read the subtext? Can anybody please tell me what on earth has lord Shiva got to do with intoxication or eroticism?
And then it reminded me of something else. That insensitively-scripted comic scene in Sholay where Basanti goes to pray at the Shiva temple and tries to bribe lord Shiva into getting her a good husband. I mean really? Was Sippy trying to imply that the Destroyer of the Universe can actually be bribed? And what about the tone Basanti adopts? She talks to Shiva as if he is some kind of a friend. She even implies that he is forgetful and absent-minded. And what’s more, Sippy allowed a most inappropriately clad, uncouth and loud outlaw like Veeru to violate the sacred precincts of the temple, make direct contact with the idol thus polluting it and appropriate Shiva’s voice to communicate with Basanti. How did we actually tolerate this act of ridiculing the god? I mean at the end of the scene Basanti gives a mouthful to Veeru for humiliating her thus, but what about the lord? There is not a single voice that rises in his defense, that rises in protest at the whole scene that used lord Shiva as a prop to create humour and undercut his divinity. Clearly that generation knew nothing of either sabhyata or sanskriti and definitely nothing about Hindu dharma.
And then even as I was trying my best to douse the flames that these obscene videos had fanned, I was reminded of something even more humiliating: the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram – why the name of Shiva in a film that was all about skinny dipping in the surging waters of romance and lust? Have you seen how the film begins? Well, it actually goes to the extent of telling us that god does not exist; it is we who have created god. It reduces Shiva to just a stone and then shows us how once this stone is anointed and garlanded, it becomes god but the film keeps insisting; nonetheless, a stone is a stone is a stone. In fact the whole narrative of the film is based on this absurd premise of subjective perception. I wonder how the people protesting against the insensitive depictions about Hinduism in PK didn’t realise how religion and especially Shiva was just being reduced to a context, a mere backdrop to foreground a completely unrelated narrative?
If you do not believe me just watch the song: “Satya hi Shiv hai, Shiv hi Sundar hai”– In it, a skimpily-clad, extremely sensuous Zeenat Aman in a negligee-like-saree stands in front of the Shiv Linga, starts her song and then goes on to caress the lingam with her hands and her face. As if we don’t get the subtext of the phallus erectus and what the juxtaposing of the lingam and a semi-clad woman implies. I tell you whatever the world and Russia may say about Raj Kapoor, I think we naïve and over-forgiving Indians have cut him a lot of slack.
Why I feel this insurmountable urge to write about this is because I feel we need to do a thorough cleaning of the cinema especially when it comes to our dharma, like how we rightly did in censoring Tandav’s portrayal of lord Shiva. You see, he has always been my favorite god. I even named my son Shiv because I feel he is a very accommodating god and that he is the very symbol of an inclusive divinity. But of course that doesn’t mean that the Chopras and the Sippys and the Kapoors and the Khannas and now Amazon Prime get to use him as a prop whenever and however they deem fit! He for one has taken it for too long. He needs us today to rise and speak up for him.
So coming back to Tandav: trying to portray Shiva as someone naïve, someone who has to be reminded by Narada that the world has changed while he was in tapa. Someone who has to be told about a competing divinity. This is outright effrontery. I support the censorship and I strongly believe that it is high time we condemn and ban the song Jay Jay Shiv Shankara for its promiscuous subtext under the veneer of fake devotion to Shiva, that we seriously reconsider renaming the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram and especially edit the song which is explicit in its erotic charge and that we sue the makers of Sholay for reducing Shiva to a prop in a comic scene. Let’s keep them coming – the FIRs I mean.
Disclaimer: This is a work of satire through which the author means to critique the recent controversy around the Amazon Prime series Tandav.
Featured image source: TheQuint