Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta swears by Tony Morrison's famous quote, "All art is political" and says artistes across the world will always fight for freedom of expression, trying not to succumb to "self-censorship."
Mehta has been behind some of the most well received films of in the past two decades such as Earth, Fire and Water, the last two of which courted huge controversy in the India.
"Artistes will always fight for freedom of expression. When a time comes when there is no strife then we forget how important freedom of expression is. It is only when you fight for something that you realise its importance. The fight may probably never end," said Mehta.
While artistes can put up a fight to voice what they feel through their art, there could also be a looming fear in doing so. "You can get scared, depending on the climate. You have to be aware. But I think there is something really tragic about self-censorship. I am not an advocate of that. But, it (art) is not made for the sake of making trouble.
"Nobody goes out and says I will make a statement which will court problems and get me in a controversy. That defeats the purpose," Mehta adds. At a time such as today, where there is a clamp down of independent voices and a culture of intolerance, Mehta says art and culture gain extreme importance. "But it is not just these times. In times of even perceived peace that writers and filmmakers have an opportunity to reflect the times. They are, from a very personal point, a mirror as to what is happening in the society. So it is always good to read or watch what is happening around us," she says.
The director was speaking on the sidelines of the inaugural JCB Prize for Literature where she announced the 10 most distinguished novels of the year. As part of the process, Mehta, along with other jury members read more than 60 Indian books and over 15,000 pages.
"There was a very interesting pre-occupation with history, mythology as well as ecology. There was a concern about what is happening today, the current situation, culture or political. There was a lot of humanity in the works we read," Mehta says.
Of these 10, the jury will select a short list of five and then eventually the final award of Rs 25 lakhs will be given to the writer of the winning novel on October 27.