Protests against Rong Beronger Kori show religion is low-hanging fruit for all kinds of radicalism

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

December 22, 2017 20:44:13 IST

That the current situation in the country is far from being conducive to the creative freedom of the arts and artists is a feeling that's gained ground. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s epic drama film Padmavati and Sanal Sasidharan’s brilliant commentary on patriarchy S Durga — two films with two different messages, and at two different ends of the financial spectrum of filmmaking — have both been held hostage to rising outcry from fringe groups.

Still from Rong Beronger Kori

Still from Rong Beronger Kori

The latest victim of such baseless protests is the upcoming Bengali film Rong Beronger Kori (The Many Colours of Money) by director Ranjan Ghosh. The Hindu Jagaran Manch has recently mounted protests against the release of the film, until certain specific changes are made. Rong Beronger Kori is essentially an anthology film, with four stories connected by the central theme of the different hues (or notions) of money, each story bringing out a distinct colour of money through the changes in relationships among the characters inhabiting them. In the film, such basic human emotions as love, separation, the need for profit and the fear of loss are shown to colour money in four different ways. In one of these stories, a tribal couple is shown, and the man and the woman are named Ram and Sita respectively. Allegedly, they have been shown to get a divorce as the story progresses, and this simple fact (or shall we say fiction?) has ruffled the feathers of radical Hindu groups — who have demanded that the film be banned, claiming that it has the propensity to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus all over the world.

Director Ranjan Ghosh, whose scriptwriting collaboration with veteran filmmaker Aparna Sen in Iti Mrinalini (Yours, Mrinalini) and directorial debut with Hrid Majharey (Within My Heart) both speak volumes of his talent and bright prospects, has said that not even in his wildest imagination did he think that a controversy could arise from an issue so gratuitous, unwarranted and untenable as this. He does mention that there is a reason why the two characters in his film have been named Ram and Sita, and that the reason is an extremely noble one, nothing to do with religion at all, and which will be easily seen and accepted by anyone who watches the film with an open mind. How one can object to the release of the film without even having watched it — he fails to understand. The allegorical motives behind his film, if any — he claims — are centred around the notion of money. There is no commentary on religion in his film at all. However, what does exist in his film is a critique of the recent exercise of demonetisation in the country, and Ghosh feels that that could be the real motive behind the confounding protests. In our country, of course, religion is a low hanging fruit for all kinds of radicalism, and in the absence of any debate, dialogue or civil discussion whatsoever, the names of the film’s characters are being targeted.

It is said that there are as many as thirty-three crore gods and goddesses in the Hindu religion. If one were to stop using their names in the arts and literature for fear of retaliation from such self-appointed sentinels of the religion, then there will be no artistic expression left in the country, and our great nation, which was once known all across the globe as an upholder of uninhibited creative freedom, will soon turn into a barren and dark desert of fear and subjugation.

Updated Date: Dec 22, 2017 20:44 PM