India is among the world’s most creative filmmaking countries but has topped the list of countries that have censored the most number of films in 2017, surpassing Turkey, China, Lebanon, France and its neighbor Pakistan, according to a study The State of Artistic Freedom by Freemuse, an independent international organisation advocating for free artistic expression.
According to the study, in 2017, 20% of all film censorship cases came from India, followed by Turkey and Pakistan, with 9% of cases each and China accounted for 6% of the total cases. In cases of persecution and threats to filmmakers and actors, India accounted for one-third of all, followed by the United Arab Emirates, with 17% cases.
In 2017, Bollywood filmmakers found themselves in significant scuffles with censors and far-right caste groups. Throughout the year, they were confronted by numerous hurdles put in their way by censors demanding cuts to films deemed indecent or likely to offend religious or ethnic sentiments. These challenges came amidst threats, and sometimes attacks by caste groups, as reported by Scroll
The report noted the censorship of Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s S Durga, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, Gautham Menon’s Satyadev IPS, Alankrita Srivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha and the Kannada-dubbed version of Ajith Kumar starrer 2015 Tamil hit Yennai Arindhaal. The release of the movie was disrupted by violent protests citing that the dubbed films threatened the state’s culture and industry.
The report was based on 553 documented cases across 78 countries where artistic freedom was violated. India had also found a place among the ten nations that have exhibited “alarming developments in how they treat artists and their freedom of artistic expression and are ones to keep a watch on throughout 2018.” The other countries on that list were Israel, China, Iran, the United States, Mexico, Cuba, Spain, Poland, and Venezuela.
India was also ranked fourth in the top six countries that denied women’s rights to artistic freedom, after Iran, Israel, and Egypt.
India was eighth on the list of top 10 countries with censorship across art forms, with the United Kingdom sharing the same space. Uzbekistan topped the list followed by France and Algeria.
According to the study, 67% of all documented cases were against films and filmmakers in India. 50% of all recorded violations were censorship cases of which 86% of censorship cases were against cinema. 91% of all documented violations were by government authorities (55%) and nonstate actors (36%), including religious and caste groups.