Why was, or is there a concept of patronisation of literature, and art by the State, as defined today, or earlier in time by Emperors and Kings? The people in power often defined the ingenious works of people who moved the masses with their creativity to be encapsulated with the ideas of the ruling class, and the ruler in particular.
The Courtiers of the Kings, and emperors often used their creativity to seek approval of the masses, their love, and their loyalty. Even in the recent past, the Americans used their fleet of film writers and producers to seek approval of the American people to further the mandate of the American government. The Nazis used films and literature to penetrate the ideas held by them to the people. The Chinese approve only that content which promotes the Chinese cause.
When we start talking about India, after 1857 to 1947, when the English had placed restrictions on the freedom of press and circulation of literary materials, all the Indians used their pens with a passion that stirred among the people the will and love to die for freedom. The ideas from all hues had great acceptance, and it was the people who collectively decided what must be censored out of the social discourse and what not.
This bred a healthy beahviour among people which led to a collective approval of ideas, and these found mention in the minds of the leaders also. It was a time which was limited in resources and a few people had the ability to read and comprehend for the others in a spirit of sympathy.
Post 1947, the era of Indian politics began, where everyone with a narrow dream of gaining power, gathered people ascribing to their beliefs and used/ abused the pen to create a storm that only worked to benefit them. Indians shared a blended cultural heritage of over 1000 years which produces a unique form of literature, art and ideological scripts that have a deep impact in every aspect of human life that touches creativity like music, art, architecture, literature and designing.
The Indian state which guaranteed the freedom to propagate information and right to culture, did not do much to protect the people becoming a prey to the doctored house of information, ascribing to a narrow outlook. In a failed attempt to provide the people with better lives and better information we created a tool to serve the ends of the State by entangling the institutions that were meant to nurture and produce creators within the framework of the political democracy, keeping the people’s interests aside.
We see the State penetration in Historiography, media, literature, films, and art. Why is it that centrally funded institutions like Sahitya Akademi, National School of Drama, ICCHR and a few more, are often persecuted, because they often deliver confronting set of ideas that the ruling party wouldn’t approve of? Have we even wondered why did Padmavati create such a furore all over, the Censor board actually edited the entire movie, eventually destroying the imagination of the creator!
The current or the past regimes have had everything to do with the films, filmstars and writers, along with media persons have shared the political space for years and still do. The communication through the works of literature is often used to propagate the set of ideas one has, but in a democracy if only one side of the idea is being allowed to germinate, how will the people be well informed, without being exposed to the other side of the idea?
Does the State Endorsement of Literature help in the evolution of the people? The National Film Awards, became another reason to object the Nehruvian policy of state endorsement of literature, because there may be a halo of autonomy given to our cultural institutions and artists, but it surely does not mean that they are free to create with spontaneity. The State when becomes the arbiter in creativity, the creative capacity get scuttled. This may be one of the reasons why we have been faring not so well on the global counts of creativity.
There were awardees who gave up their awards in 2015 while they were protesting against the actions of the State, and now there were awardees who did not accept their awards because our President Ram Nath Kovind did not present them. The awards that were being distributed, would have had more meaning and weight if someone like Javed Akhtar, Steven Spielberg or some other man with literary accolades would have been the one presenting it.
The Indian State does not act when some people with high minds get killed at the hands of extremists, like Gauri Lankesh and MM Kalburgi, and when people vandalised the sets of Padmavati, though when it comes to creating their own fleet of writers and filmstars they allure them by giving them State Sponsored Awards!
This is the right time when we must collectively think about what do we want us to be entertained with, and how the galleries of creativity be renovated in India. The State must not be the arbiter in literature and creativity.
It has been years since we have been fighting over some or the other issue, while we neglect the bigger picture. The bigger picture that we see is making India a nation, solving the problems that people face in their day to day lives.
In these situations, what can serve our ends best is, high creativity by our artists, which must never be dictated and patronised by our politicians in power, because as and when they come and go, the courtiers change.
We may, even for a moment try to accept all the fetters that we have on creativity in India, will never yield in free creation, but will we be able to live with a dead people?
Two movies made recently that were aimed to make society more aware of the need to evolve were ‘Toilet-Ek Prem Katha’ & ‘Padman’, these movies sent a clear message to the people to accept the new things that help people improving their lives. This was again not state sponsored but when the State begins to offer awards, this becomes a mouthpiece for the State schemes. There was another movie Nayak, that happened to define the ideal leader, which is to be found everywhere. Taare Zameen Par told people about the possible presence of a psychological disorder that may make a student run away from studies. My Name Is Khan, declared that if anyone is a Muslim, that doesn’t mean they are terrorists.
Thus, we may use literature to promote the dream of a Utopian India, which may all start with an idea, but the State will never stop endorsing literature, and there will never be a free society to choose the free concepts from the alleys of the creative mind till we become susceptible and tolerant to new ideas.
We need to provide actual autonomy to the institutions working in the field of Art, Literature and Culture, where they get the freedom to choose their own leaders, and propagate the idea of India, without the State meddling in with the bodies and their potential to create. The creations thus, will have a better connect with the masses, and they will mould the masses with a better understanding and responsibility towards the nation.
It shall therefore be an endeavour of the people to induce self-censorship to tell the people who are at the creating end of the society to know what finds resonance with the people, and in turn a welfare state must focus more on welfare rather than using its mandate to articulate the media, and the films.