Wednesday, June 20, 2007
On any holy day marked by the Christians, even as they sing the praises of Jesus Christ and spread the message of goodwill and peace, they are also concerned and worried about their place in India. They are angry about the way they are threaded by the system, the powers and above all they are angry with the Hindi film industry. They are angry with the way the Christian community has been depicted in Hindi films. They are angry about the way their religion is used and misused. They are angry about the way Christian characters are shown as "some sort of people out of this planet and without minds." They are angry about how there are customs, traditions, prayers, signs and symbols are used and made a mockery of.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]They are no longer in a mood to take things lying down any more. The otherwise docile and peace-loving community is now ready to raise their voices in protest. It is for the first time that they have formed a Catholic Sabha and like one senior priest asked, "if other religions and community have their outfits and senas and samitis to fight for their rights, why not we? We too are Indians and we too are entitled to our right to fight for our rights and protest. We have taken enough for too long. We are not a bunch of loony humans as we are shown in Hindi films. We wish to bring to the notice of the country that we are not to be taken for granted".
Yes, the Christians are angry with the way their image has been sullied over the years. Says a seniors and very pious nun, Sr. Molly Rego "We Christians are not just the drunkards and ayahs, dancers and girls serving in bars or dancing in clubs. We have our own place, we have our own character and we have our own traditions and customs we have been following since generations. Who are these Hindi filmmakers to drag our entire community into the muck?"
The Christians are unanimously in their opinion about the way Christian characters are portrayed in Hindi film. They are aggrieved and their grievance is gradually growing into anger and showing signs of revolt. They have already setup a committee which will view Hindi film to see how their community is shown and how their religion and religious customs are used. The committee has set down certain guidelines and it has also planned a line of action against any filmmaker, writer or actor who crosses or breaks these guidelines.
They took their first major step when the late Manmohan Desai made Amar Akbar Anthony. The authorities of the church condemned the film for caricaturing, cartooning and calumny of the Christian community. They castigated the film for the way Amitabh Bachchan's character was created. They ran down the scene where Parveen Babi makes a confession (a sacred belief of the Christians) in church, the murder of Amitabh's foster father, a Christian priest, Amitabh placing the body of the priest on the altar which is the most holy place in the entire church where the Christians believe Jesus Christ "lives" in a tabernacle (a well decorated cubicle placed on a pedestal) and the lampooning of a Christian priest in the climax song of the film. Desai's film received a hostile reaction from the leaders of the church who went to the extent of banning shootings of Hindi films inside all churches without permission. Any filmmaker who now plans to shoot a film inside a church has to apply for permission from Archbishop's House (the head quarters of the Christian churches in Mumbai). Dev Anand was refused permission to shoot a murder scene inside a church for his film, Gangster. He had to be satisfied with shooting the scene far away with the church only as a backdrop. The authorities also came down heavily on Vinod Pande's Sins which showed a priest having an affair with a woman with the cross, the most sacred symbol for the Christians, dangling around the priest's neck. The Christian priest is bound by a vow of celibacy which prohibits him from getting married.
The Christians are also up in arms against the language the Christians are shown speaking, the dresses the Christian girls wear, the way servants, drivers, henchmen of the villains, comedians and prostitutes are shown as Christian characters with name like Peter, John, Robert and Julie or just Mrs. D'souza, Mrs. D'silva or Mrs.Braganza. Says Mr. Robert D'souza a respectable member of the community "I recoil every time my name is used in a Hindi film because my name is always associated with a thug, a drunkard or a criminal. It makes me very angry. There must a law against misusing Christian names for ulterior motives."
Sr. Molly Rego has the last word when she says, "these politicians and so-called social worker and filmmakers specially send their children to be educated in our schools and colleges because they know their children will get the best education under our guidance. They even threaten and put all kinds of pressure on us to get admissions for their children. And what do they give us in return? Only insults, humiliations and efforts to make us group look like just numbers or vote banks. I don't know when they will see sense." Sr Molly's voice is a not a voice in the wilderness but a voice which is spreading far and wide. They are cries for sanity to prevail and peace to rule. Their voices must be heard before the mild people are forced to go wild. Will the filmmakers and others listen to their voice at the right time which is now?