Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah is upset that moral policing of art has become “politically motivated” nowadays in comparison to the time when authors like Saadat Hasan Manto produced their most famous works.
Naseer captivated a packed house at the third Kolkata Literary Meet on Monday evening with a reading of the India-born Manto, who migrated to Pakistan after the sub-continent’s partition in 1947, who wrote in Urdu from the 1930s to 1950s.
“It’s really worrying to see how far the moral policing of art has come… what we are seeing over the last 10 or 12 years is a very worrisome trend where anybody can decide to take offense…it is terrible…it is politically motivated now…I don’t know about then (Manto’s time)…it was probably not…it was just people’s prudery was outraged but these it’s much more than that.
“At least their works were not burnt in public…at least they were not dragged into the streets…their precious output was not destroyed…they were not banned…they were not banished…they didn’t have to run away.”
Speaking on the section 292 (peddling obscenity) of the Indian Penal Code, that also entitles art to be charged with obscenity, Naseer said only a “terrible prude” could frame such a law.
“Somebody has to define the term obscenity and vulgarity…I think the people who framed the law were unaware of the massive culture…it seems to have been formulated by someone who is a terrible prude.”
“I don’t see what artists can do except to continue doing what their instincts drive them to. All we can do is to stay undeterred and continue to do what we believe in,” he added.