The Cinematograph Act is riddled with colonial and statist traces that encourage political censorship. These anachronisms are incompatible with the spirit of the Indian Constitution, which was inspired by the Western liberal belief that political speech must not be suppressed. Indian courts, by adopting the functionalist-liberal ideology of Mill and Meiklejohn, have emphasized the need to allow free and frank criticism of the state—the “counter-view,” as the Bombay High Court described it in Anand Patwardhan’s case. Political censorship not only restricts the artistic freedom of Indian filmmakers, but also inhibits their chances of catering to international audiences that would pay to watch political films about other countries. But what about the impact of political censorship on citizens? “You take somebody that cries their goddam eyes out over phony stuff in the movies, and nine times out of ten they’re mean bastards at heart.”
Yet, as the RDB Effect demonstrates, a sensitive minority of the populace can imbibe political messages from films and effect social change. In a country where several millions of people are passionate about cinema, even a small minority adds up to a numerically large number. Many evils ail India. If Indian filmmakers are allowed to discuss these evils boldly, they can surely help cure some of them―and earn a little extra on the side.