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Does one stupid claim deserve another?

Does one stupid claim deserve another? February 10, 2007

Water, the Oscar-nominated film by Deepa Mehta, opens in India two weeks from now — and it’s stirring up protests once again.

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

According to media reports, demonstrations were held Wednesday in two parts of the city [Varanasi] by activists of the Congress party demanding a ban on the movie on the grounds that the film includes derogatory comments about Mahatma Gandhi.

The protests saw activists burning an effigy of Mehta while demanding that “Water” — which is slated for a Feb. 23 release here — be banned. Reports indicate that pirated videos of “Water” are already available.

City Youth Congress president Vipul Pathak was quoted as saying: “We strongly condemn Deepa Mehta for derogatory remarks against the father of the nation in the movie.”

The activists say that the film shows a eunuch making derogatory remarks against Gandhi. Rajesh Mishra, a member of parliament of the Congress party from Varanasi, said that he has sent a letter to the Information and Broadcasting Minister regarding this matter.

This is so many kinds of stupid, I hardly know where to begin. Yes, there is a scene in which a eunuch expresses skepticism regarding Gandhi’s campaign to eradicate the caste system, etc., but this eunuch is one of the film’s villains — he’s basically a pimp who facilitates the sexual exploitation of widows and at least one child — and the film ends on a strongly, strongly pro-Gandhi note.

So to complain about the presence of the eunuch in this film is a little like complaining about the presence of bad guys in, well, just about any movie ever made about a real-life historical figure.

And would Gandhi have approved of burning people in effigy?

But wait, the film’s distributor says something equally stupid:

However, in an interview Thursday, Ravi Chopra, managing director of the film’s Mumbai-based distribution company, B R Films, said: “There is absolutely nothing in this film that is derogatory to anybody. It is obvious that the people who are protesting haven’t seen the film. There is no scene where anybody makes any comments about Gandhi. I think ‘Water’ is a beautiful film, and the fact that it got a censor certificate without any cuts is proof enough.”

Huh? If Chopra is referring to the uncut version of the film, then there most definitely are scenes in which people make comments about Gandhi — and that’s not counting the climactic scene, in which Gandhi himself (played by Mohan Jhangiani) appears at a train station, to spell out one of the movie’s central themes.

Of all the defenses that one could mount for this film, this has to be one of the worst, for the simple reason that it is simply untrue — a fact that will not exactly help to allay the suspicions of the protestors and those who are listening to them.

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