HC dismisses plea to quash MSG-2’s certificate for screening

The Delhi High Court today dismissed an appeal seeking quashing of the certificate for public exhibition of “MSG- 2 The Messenger”, saying the film does not have the propensity of inculcating hatred.

The court observed that the issue should be judged from the perception of a reasonable prudent man and not that of a sensitive person.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said there was no justifiable reason to interfere with the order of the single judge who had also refused to ban the screening of film by Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on the ground that it depicts ‘Adivasis’ as anti-nationals.

“Moreover, the movie was released on September 18, 2015 and it is not a case of the appellant that any incident of violence or atrocity has been reported from any corner. The law is well settled that the test is not of a sensitive person, but it has to be judged from the perception of a reasonable prudent man.

“In our considered opinion, no reasonable prudent man will perceive the movie in the way in which the appellant sought to project,” the bench said.

The bench, which also viewed the movie, observed that at the outset the film contains a disclaimer that “none of the character therein is based on any living or dead person and the resemblance if any is unintentional”.

“We have also observed that it does not make out a case to hold that the certificate issued by the Central Board of Film Certification is in violation of the guidelines. As rightly held by the single judge, the film cannot be said to have the propensity of inculcating hatred, ill-will and violence towards a person or group of persons.

“It also appears to us that the film, to the average viewers’ understanding, does not depict the life as such, but on the other hand, it is a pure work of fiction,” it said.

The court passed the order on the appeal by Prem Mardi, who had filed the earlier petition, and who had contended that the single-judge’s decision was bad in law.

The single-judge bench had said that the reference in the film to “Adivasis” is not found to be relatable in any manner to Scheduled Tribes.

A hybrid of energies

Art essentially is expression of any kind. At a time when we, as a society, are trying to find our own mediums of expressions, and the meanings within them, it comes as a sigh of relief when we chance upon a gesture or a movement we can relate to. These gestures or movements are, sometimes, forces untranslatable into words. Contemporary dance has remained and continues to be one such enormous force that many of us reckon with, despite the worldly debates about its walk away from what purists called traditional.

In one such attempt to blur the lines between tradition and innovation, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations has come up with a three-day festival of contemporary dance, aptly titled Expressions in New Delhi. The festival is curated by Suresh K Goel, former Director General of the ICCR and produced by Teamwork Arts. An amalgamation of creative highs set to intrinsic patterns, Expressions seeks to connect the critical mind to the fluid body, the result of which is a hybrid of energies engulfing the auditorium here at Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts.

Speaking about the peculiarity of contemporary dance, Goel says that there prevails a misimpression about what India represents in the realm.

“The groups are trying to find a medium of expression which is different from what India is known for but is still Indian. Using the medium of classical dances or martial arts forms like Bharatanatyam, Odissi or Kalaripayittu, they are trying to create something new and abstract. The themes from our own societies have resonance with their expressions. And in order to develop a culture, we must evolve.”

The festival features productions and choreographies by Indian as well as international groups like Attakalari (Bengaluru), Compagnie Jósef Trefeli (Switzerland), Ice Craft Dance Company (Ahmedabad), Dafi Dance Company (Israel), and Rhythmosaic (Kolkata).

Myriad shades

The choreographies deal with a number of imageries, emotions, social issues, philosophies and experiences. MeiDhwani, Echoes of the Body (Mei – body; Dhwani – echo or suggestion), by Attakalari, is a spectacular display of the creative thought process. The choreography looks at the fragility of human life and its chaos by producing the five great elements on stage through props and visual imageries. The pot represented the earth and water, both female energies; the cylindrical lamp represented fire and wind, almost like a phallic symbol; the space itself became ether, thus, conjuring the encounters of a lifetime on stage. Men and women entered from either sides representing the encounters, making the props look like landscapes.

Jinx 103, by Compagnie Jósef Trefeli, is another extremely energised performance charged by the complexities of the body. Desolate and Skin, by Rhythmosaic, celebrate the identities of transgenders and the idea of finding comfort in one’s own skin, regardless of its origin.

In a conversation Jayachandran Palazhy, Artistic Director, Attakalari, gives an insight into the the understanding of the symbols of contemporary dance. “There are two ways to respond to this. One remains at the gut level, which is empathetic. You feel what is being portrayed through neurons. The second one is through a history of viewing, when you understand the form itself. In both cases, the dance remains an ongoing process. When you watch contemporary dance with a mind preoccupied with classical or other dance forms, you might miss the point,” says Jayachandran. “For instance, if one is experimenting with music and confines oneself to the tala pattern, one will never be able to explore the many possibilities that come with, say, Jazz. One travels with the art and then finds language within it. Dance is the materialisation of one’s imagination. Even before it is created, it disappears. It is constantly in the process and is ephemeral. One has to be present in the moment which can be cherished later. It is the purest way to experience something,” Jayachandran adds.

A bridge between two cities

If Varanasi is said to be one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world, Anuradhapura is famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilisation. Even though miles apart, they both are cities of ritual, and are intrinsically interwoven into the life of the people who populate these complex geographies. Apart from being the popular pilgrimage and religious sites, a common thread that binds them together is — Buddhism. With Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, just 10 kms away from Varanasi, and Anuradhapura considered as a ‘cradle of Buddhism’ in Sri Lanka, the two sites became a starting point of inquiry for 11 artists from both the countries to create works that re-looked at these sites from a fresh perspective.

Together this artist collective comprising Manjunath Kamath, Riyas Komu, Manisha Parekh, Ram Rahman, Paula Sengupta and Chintan Upadhyay from India with Jagath Weerasinghe, Anoli Perera, Pala Pothupitiya, Bandu Manamperi and Pradeep Chandrasiri from Sri Lanka collaborated for an art project — A Tale of Two Cities in 2015. This research-based art-making process was lead by curator Ruhanie Perera, who in the curatorial note writes, “It calls on the artist to revisit a city through individual artistic expression born of collaborative seeking and discourse.”

Cross-cultural exchange

So in a year-long cross-cultural exchange the collective visited these sites and stayed there to observe and absorb; to reinterpret and contextualise, and to learn and explore. All of them, at some point in their lives, had visited these sacred sites in their respective country but for this project, they had to skim a part of that memory and approach the site with a renewed gaze.

Their artistic interventions have translated into various artworks that were first showcased at Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa last year, and are now displayed in the city, and will soon travel to Sri Lanka. The project, presented by Gallery Espace, in association with Serendipity Arts Trust and Theertha Artists Collective, Sri Lanka, is built around the framework to create a dynamic, longer-term sustained dialogue among artistic communities.

“We live in the subcontinent where there is a lot of conflict and tension, but at the same time, we also have a shared history and common myths. So, a project like this gives an opportunity to artists to see how we can start a conversation around things that need to be addressed,” says Riyas.

Elaborating on his work, titled ‘Agam Puram’, which includes photographs of important sites in Sri Lanka and its people, along with different kinds of sculpture in recycled wood, Riyas says that at the outset he was clear about what he wanted to explore in Sri Lanka. “I was not looking at her as a site of archaeology or pilgrimage, but was interested in exploring how the situation has changed in the post-war Sri Lanka,” he says.

All his works in the exhibition are layered with symbolism, especially a series of photographs that feature an abandoned submarine, a war memorial and close-up of a group of Sri Lankan people who look sad and troubled. Pointing towards the war memorial photograph in which a jubilant solider is holding a gun in one hand and in the other the Sri Lankan national flag, Riyas says, “Winning the war meant victory, but for people, this victory still hasn’t brought peace. I have tried to build this argument by placing the two photographs — war memorial and a group of people, next to each other.”

Half-fact

For Delhi-based Manjunath, it was the complex juxtaposition of history, myths and archaeology that he has tried to assemble and give a shape to. Titled ‘Restored Poems’, he has used terracotta, iron and cement to create five sculptures that take cues from myth and history and reinterpret them in an artistic language. One of the works merges half-body of Buddha and half of Vishnu. Elaborating on this, he says, “I have always been fascinated by history. It is half-fact and half-fiction. So, when I visited Anuradhapura I saw how the iconography was similar to South, where I come from. So, I decided to create sculptures that draw from popular icons and are half constructed…so that some part of the narrative remains open for interpretation.”

However, for Sri Lankan artist Anoli this art project came as an opportunity to re-look at these sacred sites with intimacy. “I was overwhelmed when I visited Varanasi because it is a space where events like life, death and marriage co-exist. But, it was more challenging for me to see Anuradhapura in a different light because I have been to that site several times. Yet, when I visited the site for this project, I realised how I had missed out on observing several things earlier. So this project allowed me to revisit and reinterpret these spaces in a new vocabulary,” she says.

For this project, she has created two works —‘Voyages of Institution and of Promises’ and Geographies of Deliverance’, printed images on cloth, and explore the idea of creating intimate spaces within institutionalised framework of religious places. “Varanasi and Anuradhapura both continue to attract a large number of pilgrims yearly. The histories of both these places are layered with myth, cultural interpretations, intersections of politics and religious upheavals. Visiting both cities stirred my curiosity on the idea of ‘pilgrimages’ and the parallel landscapes and sacred routes people construct,” she sums up.

(The exhibition is on till March 31, at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts)