Siddique's insult of the Sun God and how EMS pronounced Coca Cola

A poet, a writer and a filmmaker testified before Manorama Conclave 2022 that art in these modern times was born distorted by fear. Cuts are made right inside the mind, long before it reaches the censor.

"Fear is born along with the plot of a film," said filmmaker Siddique. Here is what poet and lyricist Anwar Ali said: "A theme or even a word can prove highly provocative. I have never dreamt that I will live at a time when I have to think twice before I put down my thoughts."

Writer and scenarist Unni R, however, felt that self-censoring was an extension of the filtering we practise in our social life. Even then, Unni conceded that self-censoring did happen in cinema. "This is a time when invisible censoring is the norm," Unni said.

The three were speaking during the session 'Cinema: Invisible Scissors'.

Even something as trivial as a rhyming title for a film could upset a filmmaker. Siddique had such a nightmare when he chose to name one of his films 'Bhaskar the Rascal'. "I liked that the name sort of rhymed. It felt good on the tongue," Siddique said. It also captured the mischief embodied in the lead character played by Mammootty. It was, in short, smart and there was nothing else to the name.

Before he could even pat himself on the back for coming up with such a smart name, Siddique started receiving calls. He was told that Bhaskar was the synonym of the Sun God. 'You had called the Sun God a rascal,' someone told Siddique over phone.

At first he thought it was just an isolated prank but soon the calls became relentless, even sowing doubts in the mind of the maker.

"I considered whether it was insulting, whether it hurt anyone, whether it was blasphemous. Finally, after much thought, I decided not to change the name," Siddique said. "But all this time, without even developing the story, I was engrossed by a name," he added.

Though fear of social and religious forces could goad creators to kill ideas in the mind, Siddique suggested that politicians were generally game. He said politicians did not make a fuss if they were subjected to ridicule in movies.

He told a fun story about V S Achuthanandan and Pinarayi Vijayan. He said the story was told to him by a top bureaucrat. Achuthanandan is in a barber shop, getting his haircut.

The barber keeps talking to him, and Achuthanandan is only happy to answer. There is a lively discussion going on. But in between the barber asks him about Pinarayi. "What is the problem with Pinarayi," the barber asks. But this one Achuthanandan seems not to have heard. His lips are pursed.

The barber quickly changes topic and sustains the tempo of their conversation. After a point, he pops the Pinarayi question once again. Achuthanandan avoids it yet again. Still, the barber gets back to the question again, and again. When he asks the question for the fifth time, Achuthanandan snaps back. "Why do you want to know about him?"

The barber lets out a huge sigh. "Your hair is lying limp, making it difficult for me to crop it. So I thought the mention of Pinarayi might get it to stand up," the barber said.

Siddique said he was told that both Achuthanandan and Pinarayi enjoyed the story.

However, Unni was not sure of the tolerance of politicians. "Once, VKN had said that there was no need for EMS to say Coca Cola. He just has to say Cola," Unni said. This was a joke about the legend's stammer.

"If such a remark was made today, the discussion would be about the political correctness of this statement," Unni said. "We are also living at a time when two students were arrested for possessing books on Mao," he added.

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