The announcement by Ravi Belagere, the editor of the Kannada tabloid Hi! Bangalore, that he intended to make a film loosely based on the political events and undercurrents in Karnataka over the last couple of years has had the predictable results. First, the title of the film ran into trouble, as a result of which it had to be changed from “Mukhyamantri in Love, Radhika Ninna Sarasavidhene” to “Mukhyamantri I Love You, by Radha“. Then, after the movie’s mahurat, Janata Dal (Secular) workers stormed the newspaper’s offices and demanded the project be scrapped. And now, supporters of H.D. Deve Gowda have filed a defamation case for Rs 10 crore and sought a stay on the film’s release.
Belagere contends that the movie is not based on the former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy. No CM’s father in Karnataka’s history has been called Tantre Gowda, and no CM’s wife has been an IAS officer, as has been depicted in the film. After an altercation with her, the CM gets close to an actress called “Radha“. The message of the film is that voters should not forget their responsibilities when their CM is being puppeteered from outside. In other words, “the characters are entirely fictional and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and unintentional”.
Questions: Should a political film like Mukhyamantri I Love You be allowed to be made? Or should it be disallowed because it involves real-life characters in a developing political situation? Should serving politicians be open to lampooning without restraint? Or should it be disallowed because it feeds on gossip and hearsay, and could tilt the political scales? Could movies like these end up becoming political fodder for rival parties in a State going to the polls soon? On the other hand, does freedom of expression mean anything if writers and film-makers can’t say what they want to because it might offend somebody high and mighty?