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The long arm of Chinese soft power has reached Bollywood.
Indian censors have ordered the makers of Rockstar to cut or blur scenes showing images of the Tibetan national flag, which features in one of the film’s song and dance numbers. The movie opened last Friday with the required cuts.
The controversial sequence was a crowd scene filmed at Mcleod Ganj, a hill station town in northern India and home of the Dalai Lama since he fled Lhasa in exile in 1959.
Tibetans in exile naturally are incensed and have been staging rallies. It is not clear why the flag has been banned from the romantic musical, but Indian media speculated that India is bowing to pressure from China.
Kunsang Kelden, New-York based Tibetan activist and former board member of Students for a Free Tibet, told us: “It is outrageous that a vibrant democracy such as India, with an equally vibrant film industry, should bow down to Chinese pressure, violate free speech and censor the Tibetan flag.”
Rockstar’s director Imtiaz Ali may have the last laugh though.
According to Indian media his next film will be about the Tibetan independence movement.
“Reliable sources say that the movie will have political turmoil as one of the aspects along with love brewing between a Tibetan and a multi-millionaire Indian boy,” reports The Times of India.
It will be interesting to see how the censors deal with that.