Freedom of expression in Hollywood vs. Bollywood


War of words: Hollywood stars seem more open about expressing their views freely. What do you think?

In Hollywood, it is common to see actors take political stands. Take the Oscars, for example. Historically, winners have made political views on Oscar nights. They also make many statements like Alec Baldwin said that if George Bush became the President, he would have to leave the country. People in the US take such statements in their stride i.e. Kanye West says George Bush hates black people. In India, however, if an actor takes a political position or seems to become political with his views, it leads to a huge firestorm.

With all the recent controversy about Aamir Khan’s statement followed by a debate in the Parliament and also by fans and critics, people ignore a key question to which there’s a simple answer—everyone has a right to express himself as the very basics of a democratic set-up. In the US, an entertainer’s statement is generally taken with a shrug and skepticism. How about India?

When a celebrity speaks his mind over the current socio-political situation in India, it causes a big stir. But the public generally is very discerning and can figure out who to vote for and what to think. By focusing on the statement of a movie star with such an emphasis, it gives his opinion much more weight then it deserves.

Those trying to accuse Aamir of a politically motivated campaign are missing the point that he is entitled to have a political opinion and so are others. Why so much fuss over an opinion? I understand that a lot of NRI’s are giving their perspective on this debate. I do not want to add to arm chair pontification as to what is good for India because it is for Indians to decide. My only view is that people need to let opinions resonate in a vibrant democracy that is India. It strengthens democracy.

What do you think is the cause for people in the US and India with one of the largest movie industries to react so differently? Do you think Hollywood stars exercise their freedom of expression more freely than Indian actors?

Given the debate that there were color badges for tolerance and intolerance on Facebook (similar to people supporting France/Digital India and so on), what would your color be? Write to me.

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

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