Freedom Song: Film Screening and Discussion

by Prasad Krishna last modified Mar 15, 2013 06:51 AM
Freedom Song, a documentary film produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust and directed by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Subi Chaturvedi will be screened at the IIHS Bangalore City Campus on March 21, 2013, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by discussions. Paranjoy will be present for the screening and will answer questions from the participants.

Event details


Mar 21, 2013
from 09:00 AM to 11:00 AM


IIHS Bangalore City Campus, No. 197/36, 2nd Main Road, Sadashivnagar, Bangalore 560 080

Contact Name

Contact Phone


Add event to calendar

Discussions and arguments on freedom of expression and what should or should not be censored are as old as civilization itself, across the world and in India. In recent years, these debates have acquired new dimensions with the growth of the mass media -- especially the internet. Maintenance of public order, national security, religious tolerance, blasphemy, libel, defamation, invasion of privacy, artistic licence, pornography, obscenity, copyright and other intellectual property rights have all become issues linked to freedom of expression, often under highly contentious and controversial circumstances. Whereas Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India guarantees freedom of expression as a fundamental right of all citizens, Article 19(2) imposes "reasonable restrictions" on the exercise of such freedom. There is no consensus on what constitutes "reasonable" restrictions and/or who or which body should determine what is or should be "reasonable" restrictions on freedom of expression.

The 52-minute-long documentary film entitled Freedom Song produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust and directed by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Subi Chaturvedi seeks to examine issues relating to freedom of expression in a contemporary Indian context. The film raises a number of questions. Has Indian society as a whole become more or less tolerant to dissent even as sections of the population have apparently become increasingly vociferous in protesting against what is considered offensive? Are vocal minorities drowning out the voices of passive majorities in issues pertaining to artistic freedom and independence of expression? Where does one draw a dividing line between an individual's right to offend and her or his obligations towards maintenance of social harmony?

The film includes examples of alleged violations and transgressions of the fundamental right to free expression in contemporary India. Such examples include incidents and episodes relating to why Salman Rushdie’s video conference at the Jaipur Literary Festival had to be called off, the banning of books by Taslima Nasreen by the West Bengal government, controversial paintings by the late Maqbool Fida Hussain, the chopping of the hand of professor of Malayalam T.J. Joseph in Ernakulam, Kerala, the arrest of professor Ambikesh Mohapatra in Kolkata for circulating an e-mail lampooning West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the controversy surrounding a cartoon first published in 1949 which depicts India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the architect of the country’s Constitution B.R. Ambedkar.

These examples are juxtaposed with the views of a cross-section of Indians from different walks of life: lawyers, creative artistes, journalists, politicians, social activists and ordinary individuals.

Film duration: 52 minutes
Year of production: 2012

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an independent journalist and an educator. His work experience, spanning more than 35 years, cuts across different media: print, radio, television and documentary cinema. He is a writer, speaker, anchor, interviewer, teacher and commentator in three languages: English, Bengali and Hindi. His main areas of interest are the working of the political economy and the media in India and the world, on which he has authored/co-authored books and directed/produced documentary films. He lectures on these subjects to general audiences and also trains aspiring – and working -- media professionals. He participates frequently in and organizes seminars/conferences, is a regular contributor to newspapers, magazines and websites and is featured on television channels and radio programmes as an anchor as well as an analyst and commentator.

Born on October 5, 1955 and educated at St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi (1972-75) and at the Delhi School of Economics (1975-77) in the same university from where he obtained his Master’s degree in economics, he started his career as a journalist in June 1977 and has been employed with various media organizations including companies bringing out publications such as Business India, BusinessWorld, The Telegraph, India Today and The Pioneer. He worked with Television Eighteen (now Network 18) for almost six years between 1995 and 2001 when he anchored a daily discussion programme called “India Talks” on the CNBC-India television channel -- nearly 1,400 half-hour episodes were broadcast. From March 2007, he has been anchoring two one-hour-long weekly programmes for Lok Sabha Television (the channel owned and operated by the lower house of the Parliament of India) – a panel discussion called “Talktime” (earlier “Headstart”) and an interview called “1-on-One”. He has anchored programmes for other television channels.

He is (or has been) a visiting faculty member at over a dozen reputed educational institutions including the Indian Institutes of Management at Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Kolkata, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jamia Hamdard University (both in Delhi), the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, the Film & Television Institute of India, Pune, the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie and the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi. In September 2010, he became a visiting professor in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Delhi, teaching M.Phil students.

He served as a member of the Press Council of India nominated by the University Grants Commission between January 2008 and January 2011. In April 2010, as a member of a two-member sub-committee of the Council, he co-authored a 36,000-word report entitled “Paid News: How Corruption in the Indian Media Undermines Democracy”.

He is a media trainer and a consultant/adviser on India’s political economy. He was the founder director of the School of Convergence (SoC). He has been a consultant at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, making presentations and writing papers on Indian politics. He has been associated with a number of projects of the United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organization (ILO). He moderated two panel discussions at the International Labour Conference at Geneva, Switzerland, in June 2009 and at the ILO’s Asia Pactific Regional Meeting in Kyoto, Japan, in December 2011. He is currently president of the Foundation for Media Professionals, an independent, not-for-profit organization. He has advised various organizations, including corporate bodies (Indian, foreign and multinational), government agencies (including India’s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting) and civil society organizations.

He is a director/producer of documentary films. One entitled “Idiot Box or Window of Hope” which examines the impact of television on Indian society – was produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) in 2003 and was broadcast on Doordarshan. In 2006-07, he produced and directed a five-part documentary series in partnership with the PSBT entitled: “Hot As Hell: A Profile of Dhanbad”, different versions of which have been broadcast on various television channels including Doordarshan and NDTV 24x7. In 2007, he directed a documentary film “Grabbing Eyeballs: What’s Unethical About Television News in India” for PSBT that was followed up by another entitled “Advertorial: Selling News or Products?” in 2009. In 2010, he produced and directed a three-part documentary film series entitled “Blood & Iron: A Story of the Convergence of Crime, Business and Politics in Southern India” on the political, economic and ecological consequences of iron ore mining in Bellary (Karnataka) and Ananthapur (Andhra Pradesh). The film has been translated into six Indian languages and broadcast on different television channels. In 2011, he produced and directed a documentary film entitled: “The Great Indian Telecom Robbery”. (He was one of the first journalists to write about the telecommunications spectrum scandal in November 2007 and was one of the petitioners in public-interest litigation petitions on the subject in the Supreme Court of India.) In 2012, he co-directed a film entitled “Freedom Song” that examines freedom of expression in a contemporary Indian context. He has produced/directed a number of other documentary films.

He has co-authored a book with Shankar Raghuraman entitled: “A Time of Coalitions: Divided We Stand”, published by Sage Publications India in March 2004. The book was able to anticipate the outcome of the 14th general elections in India, the results for which came out in May that year. A substantially revised, updated and enlarged version of the book titled “Divided We Stand: India in a Time of Coalitions” was published in December 2007. He has written “Media Ethics: Truth, Fairness and Objectivity, Making and Breaking News” published by Oxford University Press India in March 2009 – the second enlarged edition of the book was published in December 2011. He has contributed articles and chapters to books (including “Realizing Brand India” edited by Sharif D. Rangnekar [Rupa, 2005] and “India: The Political Economy of Reforms” edited by Bibek Debroy & Rahul Mukherji [Bookwell, 2004]).

He is currently engaged in authoring/co-authoring other books and producing/directing documentary films. He has travelled widely in India and across the world. He is a partner of Media Network of India, a firm engaged in designing and creation of content for all media, contract publishing, media training, establishment of radio stations and business development.

Contact details: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
Work: E-1, Nizamuddin West, 2nd Floor, New Delhi – 110 013, India
Phone: (+91) (011) 4182-7691; Mobile: (+91) 98101-70435
Home: K-33, South City – I, Gurgaon (Haryana) – 122001, India;
E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]

For details on the venue: +91-80-67606666