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SC panel discussed controversial works in literature and cinema during 'Padmaavat' proceedings

Four states -- Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh -- had banned the film. Photograph:( WION Web Team )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 19, 2018, 04.50 AM (IST)

It was a lively discussion on literature and cinema on Thursday during the court proceedings of Padmaavat. The CJI and other lawyers discussed dogmas and the Victorian mindsets of the government which had impeded the readings of classics, movies and plays based on sensitive issues. 

The discussion was in context to four state ban on Padmaavat that was challenged by the film's makers. 

Classics of Kalidas, love story of Nala and Damayanti, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Gandhi: Naked Ambition and Man Who Killed Gandhi was discussed during the proceedings. 

Controversial plays like Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy and Sakharam Binder found a mention and so did films like Bandit Queen, Aarakshan. The CJI pointed out the artistic freedom that flows in street plays, theaters, dance dramas. 
Justice Misra recalled that puritan Odia scholars had translated Nala and Damayanti into Odia language in 1884 while omitting certain stanzas stating that it was not appropriate for readers. "He had a perception befitting that of the Victorian era. Just imagine how Kalidasa could get away with Meghdoota in that era. We need to evolve and understand the importance of right speech. If we apply Victorian era mindset, then I have no hesitation in saying that 60% of the classics would be available for reading," The Times Of India quoted the CJI as saying.

Advocate Harish Salve, who was representing the producers of Padmaavat said that artistic expression must be given freedom. "The film Padmaavat has no distortion of history and is based on the famous epic of the same name written by a well known Sufi poet. But one day I'd love to argue how artistic expression can have a license to distort history," Salve said. 

Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta though argued that artistic freedom of expression could never be a license to distort history. "Can anyone in India be permitted to show Mahatma Gandhi sipping whiskey?" Misra pointed out. 

The bench though said that it was the responsibility of the Censor Board to examine each scene to check whether history was being distorted.