As the world seethes in anger over the multiple killings carried out by religious fanatics at a French magazine office on Wednesday (January 7), filmmakers and cartoonists back home are also aghast at the level of intolerance towards religious satire in various forms of media, including print, films, stand-up comedy and social networks.
While some religious groups protested against Rajkumar Hirani’s PK, claiming that the film disrespected the Hindu religion, right-wing fundamentalists reportedly sent hate mails to director Kabir Khan, alleging that his next, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, promotes ‘love jihad’ (the film deals with a Hindu-Muslim love story).
Abhishek Sharma, who directed Tere Bin Laden (2010) — a spoof on Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden — says that he got threat calls even two years after the film’s release in 2010. "But that didn’t affect my work. I’m working on the sequel. As an artiste, I have the right to express, and the protesters have a right to protest — that’s what democracy is about," says Sharma.
Others are of the view that violent acts such as the Paris shootout will be a big blow to creative freedom. "If this continues, filmmakers will be scared to bring up religious issues," says OMG - Oh My God! (2012) director, Umesh Shukla, whose film mocked religious superstitions.
Hirani feels that only a feeling of larger unity can solve such matters. "I believe in the great Hindu idea — Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — the whole world is a family. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and all religions indeed, teach us brotherhood and love. The intent of my film (PK) is to uphold this great thought," the filmmaker told us in an earlier interview.
The cartoonist fraternity in India says that such heinous acts will not deter them. "We are not afraid. I think it’s time for us to go full throttle," says cartoonist Sumit Kumar.