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Parazania and the economy of coercion

Despite the best efforts of director Rahul Dholakia, Parazania failed to secure a release in Gujarat — after the experiences of Fanaa exhibitors appeared to have developed cold feet. The film is a tragedy about a Parsi family, which loses one of its children in the 2002 Gujarat rioting. The Bajrang Dal had already issued a warning against the film’s release. On the other hand, the exhibitors have engaged in self-censorship by deciding to not screen the film.

Statements such as “If the film hurts sentiments, it should not be screened” barely conceal the external and internalised ideology. Whose sentiments was the exhibitor talking about? During the film’s screening at the International Film Festival of India, a section of journalists and delegates did an Ann Coulter and could not be neutralised, even by Om Puri (read here). The irony is that the filmmaker, perhaps cynically not hoping much from the wider market, made the film in English.It should be pointed that Rahul is not dissuaded and is determined to screen it in the state by any means — DVD, mobile theatres, television (watch this IBN report). However, technology and the rampant piracy economy may do his job for him. According to this report, pirated copies of the film are in demand and are easily available.

In twist of irony, access to the English-speaking audience that Rahul hoped to attract have been blocked by the multiplex exhibitors and Bajrang Dal activists, while the non-English speaking masses get to watch the film through the pirated VCD/DVD route. Exactly what Bajrang Dal did not want. Or maybe, Bajrang Dal is more interested in being seen as the gatekeeper rather than really being concerned about the screening of the film.

We continue to make spectacles out of tragedies – real and representative rather than actually discuss them.

Moral of the story? Get into the pirated VCD/DVD business.

Read documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma’s experiences of dealing with the Gujarati lobby in the US here.

Read this commentary by J S Bandukwala  on Gujarat and its declining state of social affairs.

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