Mumbai/Ranchi, Nov. 5: As many as 24 filmmakers, including Kundan Shah, Saed Mirza and Ranchi's Shri Prakash, joined writer Arundhati Roy today to return their National Awards over "growing intolerance", voicing fears that the country's robust democracy might be "coming apart" in the current atmosphere.
With this, at least 75 members of the intelligentsia have either
returned national or literary awards in an escalation of protests by
writers, historians, filmmakers and scientists even as writer Nayantara
Sahgal iterated that "secularism was under threat" like never before.
Sahgal was among the first to return the honours when she gave back her Sahitya Akademi award in October.
While returning their awards, the 24 filmmakers, in a letter
addressed to the President and Prime Minister, said, "We hope that this
symbolic gesture urges you to pay attention to our fears, that the warp
and weft of our robust democracy might be coming apart in the current
The filmmakers also rallied behind students of Film and Television
Institute of India (FTII) who called off their 136-day strike recently,
saying their battle went beyond the manipulation of education to include
"intolerance, divisiveness and hate".
Roy, who received the National Award for best screenplay in 1989 for In Which Annie Gives it Those Ones, went on to receive the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, the bestseller God of Small Things.
Today, she was quoted in the letter as having said that she was
returning the honour in protest against "ideological viciousness".
Ranchi's Prakash, who received a National Award in 2010 for his 2008 documentary, Baru Gada,
had issued a statement on October 29 announcing his intention to give
back his accolade. He wasn't in Delhi today and, therefore, could not
join the other filmmakers who addressed a news meet where his name was
among the 24 announced.
Defending his decision to The Telegraph, Prakash
said, "It is extremely painful to return the award. But in the current
situation, it is all that I can do as a symbol of protest against
growing intolerance in our country. I am deeply hurt and aghast by
developments at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) and the
pathetic way in which the government has handled it do far."
Others who returned their awards today, included documentary
filmmaker Anwar Jamal, directors Virendra Saini, Pradip Krishnen, Manoj
Lobo, Amitabh Chakraborty and Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti, sound designers
Vivek Sachidanand, P.M. Satheesh and Ajay Raina, editor Irene Dhar
Malik, cinematographer Satya Rai Nagpaul and filmmakers Tapan Bose and
Addressing the news conference, Kundan Shah, an FTII alumnus, said he
was very said to give up his only National Award which he received for Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro,
a nationwide hit of the early '80s that went on to acquire cult status.
It was a necessary decision to protest against the appointment of
Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of FTII, he explained.
"This is the only National Award I have for Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and
I feel very sad to part with it. I owe this award to my alma mater
FTII- there would've been no JBDY if I had not studied at FTII," Shah
Union minister Venkaiah Naidu hit back at those who returned their
awards at a "know the truth" briefing in Delhi, saying, "Efforts are
being made to derail the Modi government's development agenda."
The artistes' community's campaign to return their awards has faced
criticism from several quarters, who called it a selective protest, but
Shah countered the argument saying his films were against the then
ruling government, Congress too.
"This is not a protest against the BJP only - we've protested through
our work against the Congress government too," he said, adding they
would donate the award money to charity, and hand over the trophy to the
representatives of the I&B ministry.