Friday, November 6, 2015

Pinto to Yaaro, more give back awards

Mumbai, Nov. 5 : Twenty-four filmmakers today returned their national awards, protesting that "the warp and weft of our robust democracy might be coming apart in the current atmosphere".
Among them were Saeed Mirza, maker of Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hai, Kundan Shah of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro fame, and author-activist Arundhati Roy who had received a national award for In which Annie Gives it Those Ones.
The move comes two days after Shah Rukh Khan joined the protest against the growing intolerance in the country but the filmmakers did not mention him or his statement, although Mirza and Shah have had a long association with the actor.
They, however, underlined their solidarity with the protesting students of FTII Pune and the 12 award-winning feature and documentary filmmakers, including Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan, who had returned their awards on October 28.
In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister and the President, they said: "We watched with disappointment how the ruling party's leaders and supporters abused these filmmakers and belittled their gesture. This has been the consistent response of the powers that be, towards the writers, academics, scientists, filmmakers, historians and artists who have expressed their dismay over the increasing climate of intolerance."
Shah Rukh had left Delhi for Mumbai a quarter century ago with an offer to work with Iskra, the TV production company of Mirza and Shah.

He acted in three TV serials made by Iskra - Umeed, Wagle ki Duniya and Circus - before their director and Saeed's brother Aziz Mirza gave SRK his first silver-screen break with Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. Shah Rukh lived with the Mirza brothers during his early days in Bollywood.
A PTI report quoted Shah as saying he was happy that Shah Rukh had taken a stand on the issue. "Shah Rukh said what he felt like. And that is very good. Even others are coming out, I think. That means the film industry is taking a stand," Shah said
The filmmakers' letter today said: "Rather than see our fellow filmmakers mocked, we have decided to stand with them and yet again bring public attention back to the manner in which the current government is responding to dissent and debate."
Many of the 24 were among the 190 signatories who had written to the government on September 11, asking it to listen to the "reasonable" demands of the FTII students, who recently ended their four-month strike.
Today's letter too nudged the government over the ongoing conflict with the FTII students over the appointment of small-time actor and BJP activist Gajendra Chauhan as the institute's chairman.
"We are using the one possibility of making you (the government) pay attention to our plea, resolve the crisis at FTII, ensure that our prestigious right to freedom of speech is unambiguously protected," the letter said.
Also on the agenda was the government's consistent refusal to allow the screening of Caste on the Menu Card, a documentary on beef-eating in Mumbai, made by students of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
"If a film that discusses the beef issue is blocked with ease, then we can imagine what culture of censorship will be put into place when students are learning and experimenting with the language of cinema at the FTII campus," the letter said.
"If the learning process at the FTII is in danger of being marred so brazenly, we have to speak up as members of the film fraternity."
The signatories, many of whom including Mirza and Shah are former FTII students, released the text of their letter at a news conference.
"Not to speak out would be a crime. We are speaking out to reclaim the soul and spirit of this land," Saeed Mirza told reporters.

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