Saturday, September 17, 2005

Cultural dictatorship...

Cultural dictatorship… freedom concert… and other matters!

Pritish Nandy in a recent article blasted the Maharashtra State government for not allowing the conducting of the “Freedom Concert” at the Gateway of India, Bombay, India. This concert is a regular feature held previously at the age-old Rang Bhavan.

Now, a law prohibits the playing of loud speakers near colleges and hospitals, and, Rang Bhavan happens to be close to Xaviers College and some hospitals, I don’t know which. Yes, the Cama Abless Hospital, it is. So the venue had to be changed. The obedient organizers changed the venue like errant schoolboys asked to take their music act elsewhere.

The organizer of the concert got the relevant permissions to hold the concert at the Gateway of India. But not all of it. The license or the right to sell tickets according to press reports is given at the nth moment before the event. This they didn’t get, poor chaps.

Now picture this. They went ahead and sold tickets, invited bands to play and did all the, urm, needful. The bands landed in Bombay with tons of equipment. Thousand of rock fans came from all over the country to find that the police had denied the license to sell tickets.

Can you beat that? The excuse being that the Gateway cannot be used for a commercial purpose i.e., selling of tickets. But didn’t they launch a book there? Was it not a commercial event? Or is it to be condoned because the nephew of the political lord of Bombay was the author of the book? Or was it because the “Freedom Concert” didn’t invite some pot-bellied, pan-chewing politician to grace the dais and say a few thousand words? Johnwriter is sure John Lennon wouldn’t approve.

Nandy rightly alleged that this was moral politicking of an extreme nature. Methinksotoo. Aren’t we a free country to enjoy rock music and prefer the type of entertainment we like? If anything needs to be banned ban 24-hour music channels and 24-hour movie channels. (Johnwriter is a big fan of these but confesses they are a big glutton of his time!)

Oh, the intransigence of those in power!

The Maharashtra government seems to have a penchant banning things. Take the dance bar issue. The dance bar ban affected only ‘dance bars’ and did not touch pubs, discos and performances at star hotels, according R. R. Patil, the puny home minister behind these decisions. “Dens of crime,” he says. Why this discrimination? Can the honorable minister vouch that the things happening in dance bars don’t happen in five star discos and star hotels? Can he?

But Johnwriter can read between the lines. Allegations were made that money was in play and that the politicians were allegedly seeking a big pay-off from the bar owners who were allegedly rolling in the stuff. Something is black in the lentils here, for sure (an old Indian saying!).
Now another pet peeve of Johnwriter, the innocent plastic bags. Johnwriter knows they are a nuisance. It litters every street; renders railway lines unsightly and are an eyesore. Myself is pleased to be knowing, kindly sir. But plastic bags were banned not because of environmental concerns. It was banned because they clogged the drains and caused the recent floods in Bombay! Holy ****! That’s news to me. Then why didn’t the mayor of New Orleans, or the Governor of Louisiana ban plastic bags?

Got to go. More later. Watch this space!

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