Madhuri Dixit's comeback film became a victim of competitive Dalit politics on Saturday, just a day after its release. The film was banned first in UP and then in Punjab and Haryana after some Dalit organisations objected to derogatory lines in the title track.
The ban was withdrawn in UP only after the producers - Yashraj films - apologised. But is Aaja Nachle a victim of competitive Dalit politics? Is artistic freedom being compromised by politics?
CNN-IBN Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai put these questions to President of National Justice Party, Udit Raj – the man who raised the storm.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Udit Raj, you have raised the voice against the film. Is this about your competitive politics? It’s not about the film, it’s not even about artistic expression, it’s not about the anger you’re feeling about the song’s lyrics. You wanted to raise your voice because you wanted to politicise this Aaja Nachle controversy.
Udit Raj: Let me tell you. I am never for sensationalizing anything. On Wednesday I made this statement that the song must be corrected. Then on Thursday, I followed up on it. Friday it was to be released. I made it clear that we weren’t for banning the movie. We are not fundamentalists and did not want to make a political issue out of it. I just want those lyrics to be deleted,” he said.
Rajdeep Sardesai: The lyrics were: Bazaar mein machi maaramar hai, bole mochi bhi khud ko sunaar hai. The directors say when they referred to the word mochi, they were referring to cobblers. You have now converted that into a slur against Dalits in general. Shouldn’t you have given a little more space to artistic freedom?
Udit Raj: Not at all. I have been telling them to delete that part and we’d be happy to let the film go ahead. We are not doing the Shiv Sena kind of politics, pelting stones etc.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But viewers were removed midway through the show in the cinema. Mayawati government did it.
Udit Raj:That is wrong…
Rajdeep Sardesai: That’s wrong? Okay. Mayawati government did it. Isn’t it comparative politics? Probably you would have done the same thing.
Udit Raj: This is not at all comparative. I disagree with you. Mayawati took up this issue this evening because she thought I could not get more publicity.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But that’s part of the problem. The problem is that this is publicity for you. You’ve had your day in the arc-lights by pushing for the deletion of those words, giving more publicity to the film in the process. Could there not have been a debate? Why all this ban and deletion?
Udit Raj: The directors and producers are not available to us. To make our voice reach them, this was the only way.
Rajdeep Sardesai: We’ve reached a situation while UP has lifted the ban, it has spread to Haryana and Punjab. The fear is that any filmmaker must worry about what people like you will say. Earlier Modi banned Parzania, Akali government banned Jo Bole So Nihal.
Udit Raj: They are fundamentalists. I can’t be compared to Narendra Modi and the likes because I am a rational politician. There was no other way. We did not trouble anyone. If you listen to the lyrics, it’s totally out of context.
Rajdeep Sardesai: The song has been on air for months. Why didn’t you object to it earlier?
Udit Raj: The song came to my notice only now. I don’t watch TV. If I knew, I would have raised my objections earlier.