Monday, November 28, 2005

The Kushboo controversy seems to be losing steam

Uma has a round up of early articles and analyses. Summarizing Jaya Menon's analysis of the controversy, she said, "Caste, film, politics make a strange cocktail in Tamil Nadu". What a strange cocktail it is! It would take great skill to unravel the ingredients of this cocktail, and Jaya Menon does it quite well -- but she covers only the recent events.

A set of ancient (circa 2002-03) events form the backdrop to the current controversy. When Rajinikant made his now infamous 'last' film Baba, it was expected to do very well; everything was indeed going well for that film, until PMK, a party that claims to represent some backward communities in northern Tamil Nadu [dont' snicker ... TN does have a north and a south!], chose to take Rajinikant on. It asked why this man, who claims to be led by spirituality in real life, glorifies and propagates such bad habits as smoking in his films. [The present Union Health Minister, Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, is a son of P.K. Ramadoss, the PMK leader; is it surprising that he recently tried to ban 'smoking scenes' in all movies?]. In the event, Baba flopped, probably because it was a bad film -- many mainstream magazines panned it. But Ramadoss and his PMK followers claimed 'victory', and somehow they lived with that aura for sometime.

Armed with this 'victory' they tried to take on the entire film industry by insisting that all Tamil movies must have their titles in Tamil, and Tamil only. Kamal Haasan's 'Mumbai Express' fell foul of this exacting condition, and there was an agitation. Things were pretty dicey for Kamal, until he managed to get the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa's support for artistic freedom!

Nursing their wounds after this 'defeat', these guys were waiting for their next opportunity. Kushboo was a great target, in more ways than one. (a) Cinema: She is an actor. (b) Region: She is from the North (Maharashtra, I think). and (c) Politics: She has a quiz show on Jaya TV, a channel that is openly aligned with the CM of Tamil Nadu, Ms. Jayalalithaa and her party, ADMK. [Ramadoss and PMK are aligned (at present) with the opposition in the state, but are a part of the ruling coalition at the Centre.]

That is ancient history in three paragraphs. Let's cut to the present.

Thankfully, the matter is likely to come to an end soon. As reported in the Hindu (Friday, 25 November 2005), the Madras High Court has stayed all the proceedings against Kushboo in the lower courts. The judge has also taken the police to task. This probably happened too late to be included in Suresh Nambath's article yesterday, but even there, it is clear that things are calming down:

But the civil society responded, slowly but surely. Journalists' associations were quick to sense a threat to freedom of expression, and opposed the moral policing. Among the political parties, the Left organisations recognised the seriousness of the issue and condemned the protests. Eventually, it became clear that the protestors enjoyed no public sympathy despite the wide coverage they got in a partisan section of the media.

Only at this point did the leaders of the PMK and the Dalit Panthers choose to distance themselves from the actions of their party men. Although they continued to criticise the actors, they denied that their parties had anything to do with the protests, which they claimed were "spontaneous".

In the meantime, people have also started filing cases against Suhasini, another actor who has expressed solidarity with Kushboo. Here is what a couple (one filed a case, and her husband gave a 'witness' statement) had to say about the two actors under fire:

The complainant sought to punish the actress for making provocative statements with an intention of causing riot and enmity between different groups.

She alleged that Ms. Suhasini's statement had tarnished the image of the Tamils.

Ms. Suhasini's support to Ms. Kushboo would lead to more cases of HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Vadivel Goundar said as a father of a girl, he was disturbed by Ms. Suhasini's views, as the bridegroom's parents would seek medical certificate on his daughter's virginity at the time of wedding.

Can you think of anything more laughable than this interpretation of what Kushboo said, originally? [Do these people even remember what she said?] It is on such utterly flimsy grounds that the magistrates of the great land of Tamil Nadu send summons to the two actors to appear in court.

Nambath observed, "the argument [behind the lawsuits] was that Kushboo's remarks were offensive and could breach public peace and order. However, the only threat to public peace came from the organised protests. "

Precisely. Thankfully, the end appears to be near.


  1. Anonymous said...

    excellent! I have been out of TN for so many years now that I have no idea about what happens there - except what I hear from my parents. but looks like some things never change.
    also, along with cinema, region and such is also religion : if I remember right, Khushboo was a muslim in her earlier avtaar (pre cinema heroine days)...?

  2. Abi said...

    No, Charu, religion is not a factor at all in the protests by the PMK and PT cadre. They are clean there. Unfortunately, they are generally not clean on the 'region' front -- but there is a change in tactics. Unlike the earlier times, they are rather subtle about it -- they don't mention it!

    As for some things remaining the same, you are absolutely right!