A few days back, late at about ten in the night, I receive a missed call from a valued colleague. I call back after a while.
Me: "You had called...?"
Colleague: "Yes.. this is not relating to work, but something else... Can we talk now?"
Colleague: "Ram, would you be interested in being a part of the Jury to the Panorama...?"
Me: (Not sure) "Meaning...?"
Colleague: "You know, there is a Jury that decides the films that are shown in the Panorama section... in the film festival in Goa..."
Me: "Oh, the pre-selection of the films for the Panorama Section...?"
Colleague: "Yes, the pre-selection committee... would you be interested?"
I am not sure on what capacity he is offering me this post. I assume that the powers that be might have asked him to make his own pre-selection.
Me: "Hmmm... well... when does this happen...?"
Colleague: "It happens in November, in Goa..."
Me: "No, I am asking when will the pre-selection take place...?"
Colleague: "Must be a month or two before that.."
Me: (relieved that it is not immediately) "oh... then it's okay.."
Colleague: "But there is one condition..."
Me: "What is it...?"
Colleague: "You should not be speaking against the Government..."
I was a bit taken aback. I knew that there was a clause in the pre-selection rules that say that the jury meetings should not be discussed in public. But was my colleague really speaking about that?
Me: "Ummm... hmmm... what does that mean?"
Colleague: "It means that you should not be speaking against Government policies... like, if they ask you on TV..."
I was at a loss as to understand as to why anyone would ask me my views on Government policies. But I had to say something.
Me: "By Government policies, do you mean Government policies on films or Government policies in general...?"
Colleague: "Any Government policy..."
Me: (Realising what is the implication) "That is a strange condition..."
I don't remember what my colleague replied, as I was thinking fast to decide. By now, I was sure that he was not referring to the pre-selection rule.
Me: "No.. yaar, I would like to keep it. Thank you... No..."
Colleague: (immediately and softly) "Would you like to reconsider?"
Me: (although wanting to scream, immediately and softly) "No... but thanks."
Colleague: "Okay, thank you..."
The conversation ended.
Within the Government of India, the Ministry of Tribal affairs could differ with the Ministry of Environment with regards to forest and Indigenous people's acts. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry could differ with the Ministry of Environment with regards to environmental studies on mega projects. There surely is a scope for debate.
It looked strange to me that a member of a pre-selection committee for the selection of Panorama films to the Goa International Film Festival cannot express a difference of opinion about say the coal policy of the Government or FDI in retail or the Ordinance on the land bill.
It bruised and disturbed me that someone had even suggested such a stifling condition to me. Being a part of one similar type of committee himself, maybe my valued colleague really felt that people in such positions should be ever obliged. Or maybe, he too was put forth such a condition before being offered the membership of the committee that he is presently in. Ah... forget it, it is all guess work.
In any case, not that my opinion would matter much but yet, I would still like to keep it.