Sunday, May 14, 2023 05:45 [IST]
Last Update: Sunday, May 14, 2023 00:05 [IST]
This year, 2023, happens to be the 30th anniversary of the UN General Assembly's resolution to establish an international day of press freedom. India ranked 150th out of 180 countries surveyed in the World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters without Borders in 2022. This year, India's ranking in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index has slipped to 161 out of 180 countries.
This happens to be a dark period so far press freedom is concerned worldwide. As per the World Freedom Index (WFI), the situation is "very serious" in 31 countries, "difficult" in 42, "problematic" in 55 and "good" or "satisfactory" in 52 countries. In other words, the environment is 'bad' in seven out of 10 countries and 'satisfactory' in only three out of ten.
In this context, consider what UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said:
"Freedom of the press is not only the mortar that binds the bricks of democracy but also the open window embedded in those bricks."
It seems the edifice of democracy is gradually weakening.
Can we foreground the importance and necessity of freedom of speech and expression? That, precisely, is the theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day: “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of Expression as a Driver for all other human rights.”
The Kerala Story
Sudipto Sen directed The Kerala Story has created quite a stir across the country, especially in the political arena- evoking extreme polarized reaction. The film has been banned in TMC ruled West Bengal, severely lambasted in Marxist ruled Kerala but made tax-free in BJP ruled UP and MP. In the recent past The Kashmir Files also evoked similar responses from different political parties.
India has had a history of such reactions relating to films. The first film to be banned by the Government of India on grounds of disrespecting political sensitivity was Mrinal Sen’s Neel Akasher Nichey (Under the Blue Sky) in 1954. M.S. Sathyu’s Garm Hawa (1974), Amrit Nahata directed Kissa Kursi Ka (1977) faced problems in its release. From then till the present days, several films have faced problems on account of its content and characterization. Political parties, people subscribing to a particular ideological line, ultra-sensitive fringe groups took offence and tried to ban the film, or stop its screenings (like for example, Pathaan).
My take on the issue is simple: ban is bad. Ban does not work. In fact, more often than not, it becomes counterproductive. People are stupid. They cannot be swayed just by a film, unless a concerted effort is made to that end.
Gita Press completes 100 years
Gorakhpur based Gita Press completes 100 years. Presently it is one of the world's largest publishing centers of religious books in terms of language and number. It publishes about 1800 books in 15 languages every year.
(Gita Press office gate, Gorakhpur)
Gita Press was founded in 1923 by Jaya Dayal Goyandka and Ghanshyam Das Jalan to publish Hindu religious texts and books from a rented house. Hanumanprasad Poddar (1892–1971), activist, freedom fighter later joined. He started publishing a spiritual monthly magazine, Kalyan from 1927. Poddar (fondly called Bhaiji) wrote many books on spiritual subjects and translated several Puranas and Upabishads in Hindi and English.
Abid Surti was probably destined to be a cartoonist. For he was born on May 5 (Cartoonists’ Day) in 1935. Besides drawing cartoons and creating iconic characters like Dabbuji, he also paints, writes fiction and screen-plays.
(Caricature of Abid Surti by Irfan Khan)
Like R. K. Laxman is known for the character ‘Common Man’ that he created, Abid Surti created the character Dabbuji, the lovable roly-poly person. Dabbuji used to appear regularly on Hindi magazine Dharmayug.
SPPU Museum of Cartoon Art
Savitribai Phule Pune University is the first university in India to have a Cartoon Art Museum. An initiative by Pune based cartoonist Suraj ‘ESKAY’ Sriram, it was inaugurated in March 2022. On the World Cartoonists Day, 5 May it held a cartoon exhibition titled ‘Give Peace a Chance’. Several cartoonists from and some from abroad participated.
The visuals created by them on the theme of 'Give Peace a Chance', were extremely powerful and the concepts were highly appreciated by the viewing public.
The museum would be conducting more theme-based exhibitions on special occasions.
Remembering Sahir Ludhianvi
Sahir Ludhianvi (8 March 1921-25 Oct. 1980) is often acclaimed as the greatest lyricist of India. He penned hundreds of immortal songs including ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to, tum mujhe bhuul bhii jaao, chalo ik baar phir se, tum agar mujh ko na chaaho, zindagii bhar nahiin bhuulegii, vo subah kabhii to aayegii, man re tuu kaahe naa dhiir dhare, jaane vo kaise log the, kabhii kabhii mere dil mein, naa to kaarvaan kii talaash hai, abhii na jaao chhodkar, ae merii zohrajabiin, allaah tero naam, jo vaadaa kiyaa vo nibhaanaa padegaa, tum apanaa ranj-o-gham, and main zindagii kaa saath.
Kolkata based Ibaadat, a Trust, set up by a few friends with a shared passion, to bring poetry to life again, and provide film lyricists their rightful place is organizing a unique musical drama on 20 May 2023 in Kolkata. Titled ‘Sahir- Kahaan Ho Tum?’ it is a 2-and-a-half-hour musical drama, based on extensive research, with an informal setting of people who talk about Sahir’s life and lyrics. Interwoven in the show are 15 of his widely-acclaimed songs, sung to specially curated music by Ibaadat’s team of consummate singers
Ibaadat has already staged 46 shows covering Majrooh Sultanpuri, Rajinder Krishan, Shakeel Badayuni, Shailendra, Gopal Das Neeraj, Hasrat Jaipuri, Sahir Ludhianvi and Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Ludhiana, Jaipur, Udaipur and Dubai.