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Wednesday, December 30, 1998
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Sena hardens stand on ‘Fire’
Lesbianism not abnormal: expert

MUMBAI, Dec 29 (PTI) — The Shiv Sena has hardened its stand against the screening of the controversial Deepa Mehta film "Fire" with Uddhav Thackeray, son of the Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, contending that the movie continued to be objectionable even if the Hindu name of a key protagonist in it was changed.

In a departure from a statement by the Sena supremo on December 13 that the party would drop its objections to "Fire" if the names of two protagonists Radha and Sita were changed to Shabana and Saira, Mr Uddhav said the screening would still not be allowed by Sainiks as the film "ridiculed Hindu culture by foisting a lesbian theme".

Mr Uddhav, who was briefing city lensmen here yesterday on his upcoming exhibition of wildlife photographs, said though his party also objected to another film "Bombay Boys" based on a homosexual theme, it wanted other organisations to agitate against it. "Why should Sena alone take up issues like this", he asked. 

Meanwhile, experts say the environmental impact and the resultant turmoil that characterise the psychological landscape of two women protagonists in "fire" have been totally ignored by its bitter critics who only see a ‘’deplorable’’ portrayal of lesbianism in its narrative, some experts have said.

Speaking at a panel discussion yesterday on "Sex and woman’s psychology," psychologist Dr Minal Pathak said lesbianism was not an abnormality and the main subject in "Fire" had been totally drowned in the wave of militant opposition to the film from certain quarters.

The discussion was organised on the occasion of the release by well- know mediaperson and writer Shobha De of a special issue on sex brought out by Marathi women’s magazine "Charchaughi" (Four Women).

The movie basically highlighted suppressed sexuality and related problems of a housewife and the choices she made thereafter, she said.

The stress in the film was not at all on lesbianism but the prevalent social system in which the woman suffered for sheer ignorance and lack of awareness about the basic needs in life in the face of social taboos that prevented her from realising these.

Explaining the phenomenon of lesbianism, sexologist Dr Rajan Bhonsle said while in some it was natural, in some other cases the person took to it as a victim of circumstances. The latter type could be "corrected" through therapy, he said.

Dr Rajan further explained that four prominent phases in the life-cycle of a person exerted tremendous influence on his or her sexual choices. The first stage was defined by autosexuality or love for the self and this began the day one was born.

The second phase started at the age of seven when the child became more and more comfortable in the company of members of the same sex. The third stage was marked by the person’s growing affinity for the members of the opposite sex. In the fourth and final stage, there was generally no inclination towards sexual activity.

Psychologist Jyoti Taskar said unlike three decades ago when homosexuality was considered a sin, today society had opened up to accept such behaviour as a social phenomenon. She said the criticism against "Fire" was coming from a particular section of society which behaved "irresponsibly" and ignored the core subject of the film.

Ms De in her address said the overall attitude of society towards sex could be changed only through awareness created by proper sex education at the school level. back


Shabana: uniform ban criteria must

NEW DELHI, Dec 29 (PTI) — Film-actress Shabana Azmi, the main protagonist of the controversial movie "Fire" today flayed the "selective" ban on certain creative works while justifying others, saying it had only helped in the growth of fundamentalism of all shades.

"Opposition to demand for ban on Salman Rushdie's book 'Satanic Verses' and ban on staging of Marathi play 'Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy,' only seek to justify the orchestrated attack on 'Fire' by Shiv Sainiks", she said.

Slamming Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackery and his party activists for their "diatribe" against "Fire" Ms Azmi said "progressive intellectuals" ought to debate sincerely on these aspects to ensure uniform mechanism of opposition to such bans or demand for ban.

The versatile actress was speaking at the second day session of the ongoing convention "Dastak" (the knock) organised in memory of the late theatre personality Safdar Hashmi.

Noted film-maker Shyam Benegal expressed resentment over attempts to give "communal colours" to the controversial movie, saying Indian films never glorified any sectarian view but reflected "plurality".

Dismissing Mr Thackarey's suggestion to change the names of characters of "Fire", to Muslim names, he said "filmmaker (Deepa Mehta) never thought on those lines when she named the characters. It is uncalled for and an unfortunate way to give a communal colour to the issue."

Referring to the violent protests against the film, he told mediapersons here yesterday that it only "speaks of the attitude of a group of people who want to impose their definition of 'culture' on others."back


Centre awaits report

MUMBAI, Dec 29 (PTI) — The Centre was yet to receive the Censor Board’s report on controversial film ‘Fire’ after its re-evaluation, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pramod Mahajan said today.

"The board is still reviewing the film", Mr Mahajan told reporters while attending an iftar party here. back

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