Ketan Mehta
Sensuality is the spice of life. Sensuality is essential for the sur vival of the human species, it is essential for all art, culture, civilisation.Sensuality is what makes life worth living.Sensuality is the essence of being human.Indians are highly sensuous people.This is reflected in our spicy food, colourful clothing, our music and dance, rituals and celebrations and even in the explosive growth of population! From ancient times, we have celebrated sensuality in all its aspects. From erotic paintings and sculptures in the temple art of Ajanta, Ellora, Konark and Khajuraho to erotic poetry in Sanskrit, to the worldfamous treatise on sensual pleasure -The Kamasutra, which dares to merge sensuality with spirituality . So, it is strange, almost bizarre, that in India, conservative religious extremists of all kinds are reacting to sensuality with suspicion and venom, vitriol and violence. Art exhibitions are vandalised, art students brutalised, books are burnt, films banned, young girls molested and manhandled for going to pubs. What kind of a free world are we living in?
For centuries, great artists across the world have celebrated sensuality along with the nude human form in all its glory .There is no shame attached to the human form, shame can only be in the way you look at it. Seeing sensuality as sin is for. eign, a Victorian, colonial hangover totally against the spirit of our ancient, extreme ly liberal civilisation and completely out of . sync with the times. After winning politi. cal freedom, liberalising the economy , now it’s time to liberate our minds. Suppression . of sensuality leads to perversion, as reflectl ed in the daily violence against women, turning them into vulgar objects of titilla tion. It dehumanises both men and women.

Raja Ravi Varma, one of the greatest Indian painters of all times, the man who gave faces to our Gods and Goddesses by t painting their realistic portraits for the first time, celebrated sensuality like few others.

He too, faced scorn and censorship from the conservative sections of the society and , was accused of obscenity and hurting the religious sentiments of the people for painting some nudes of characters from Indian mythology . He fought the legal case and won. More than a hundred years after that, artists face similar problems even , today . So, are we progressing or regressing?
Actor Randeep Hooda, who plays the role of Raja Ravi Varma in the film Rang Rasiya, is bare-chested through a major part of the film and no one has any problem with it, but a few shots of bare breasts of . the actress Nandana Sen create such a stir! What does it tell us about the kind of double standards we have, the morbid gender discrimination we practise, the hypocrisy we indulge in and the kind of society we have created?
The film Rang Rasiya, which deals with the issue of censorship, too faced some censorship problems when it was submitted to the Central Board of Film Certification as the Censor Board is called now. It was denied censor certificate by the screening committee, who found the theme very controversial, the depiction of sensuality shocking. However, fortunately for us, when we presented the film to the revising committee, it was applauded for its courage in dealing with such a sensitive subject and aesthetic depiction of sensuality . We are now told that today , it would be even more difficult to get the film past the Censor Board. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right. It is essential for any democracy , a minimum requirement for free flow of ideas necessary for the growth of any culture. In the `Information Age’, any attempt to censor ideas or images is not only nearly impossible, it is counter-productive. Let the creative juices surge unhindered, ideas flow freely, let the debates rage, only then can we grow as a civilisation. Censorship is an idea which has long outlived its expiry date.

Rang Rasiya is based on the book `Raja Ravi Varma’, written by the famous Marathi author Ranjit Desai. The film, presented by Jayantilal Gada (PEN), coproduced by Dhaval Jayantilal Gada, Kushal Kantilal Gada and Reshmaa Kadakia and produced by Deepa Sahi and Aanand Mehendroo, releases November 7.