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Support for film termed ‘non-Assamese’

Calcutta, April 9: Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare, the film that was curiously dropped from the national award selections this year for a “lack of cultural purity”, has found campaigners for its authenticity in Assam, the rest of the country and beyond.

The jury had rejected it for the top honours this year, evoking strong reactions from veterans like actor Victor Banerjee and director Jahnu Baruah who voiced their protest in strong words to The Telegraph.

The online campaign, which has given shape to the anger of those who felt that the decision was unfair, has been started by two Assamese individuals who “left Assam for the US and Netherlands but could not leave it behind”.

Wahid Saleh and Satyajit Nath will petition Union minister for information and broadcasting Ambika Soni with the documents of the campaign to revoke the decision of the national jury.

In just over a week, the campaign has gained vigour with nearly 400 signatures from filmmakers and artistes from Assam and other parts of the country.

Actress-director Nandita Das, actor Amol Gupte of Taare Zameen Par and Stanley ka Dabba fame, two-time national award winner for editing Rajesh Parmar and actor Adil Hussain have pledged support to the campaign.

The director of the film, Bidyut Kotoky, told The Telegraph the film was shot in Majuli and more than 60 per cent of it was in Assamese.

It also got the Censor Board’s certificate as an Assamese film.

Among the reasons given for the dismissal were that a part of the film was “shot in Mumbai” and that it had “Hindi film actors.”

Wahid Saleh, a Pravasi Bhartiya Samman awardee 2011 and Knight Order of Orange – Nassau and a community leader in The Netherlands, speaks of what prompted them to take up the issue.

“Our protest is against disqualifying an Assamese film by a national jury as not-Assamese. If we don’t let our voice be heard soon there will be other areas where the Assamese identity will be lost, just like the position of the Assamese script. Together with Satyajit, we decided to initiate the online campaign,” he said.

Seattle-based Satyajit Nath, from Guwahati, also spoke to The Telegraph against the “unfair decision”.

“The subject of the film is of deep importance to the Assamese. So, any unfair reason to mark this important film as not Assamese is deeply saddening,” he said.

The petitioners will request the jury to reconsider the film on its merits, and provide a full account of its findings to give Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare the fair chance that it deserves and to restore public trust in the National Film Awards process.

“What touched me the most is that I don’t know more than 90 per cent of the people who had signed the petition, from different corners of the globe! It kind of worked as a reassurance for me that basic human values such as protesting against something unjust still holds true in today’s time,” said Kotoky.

People across the globe from Australia, Norway, Belgium, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, UK and the US have come forward to join the effort.

Actress Bidita Bag told The Telegraph about the effort that went into the film, with the best technicians from 18 states having worked on this project.

“I worked for the movie three years ago and invested six months to learn the nuances. I learned Assamese, read Assamese books and made it a habit to travel in saree/mekhela sador for three months to get the body language right. All other actors from Mumbai were also given Assamese tutorials. I request people to sign this petition and change the result,” she said.

The campaign is now getting some political support, too, as Biren Baishya, the general secretary of the North Eastern MPs’ Forum, told The Telegraph that they would take up the matter and discuss a course of action at the meeting of the forum in Delhi later this month.

He assured Kotoky of their support.

Ina Puri, author, columnist, curator and documentary filmmaker, and a former member of the national awards film jury, gave a rather strong reaction.

“Much injustice has been done. We get to see such insubstantial details and silly rubbish about filmstars’ love lives but nothing in the media about his issue. The indifference, the absurdity is shocking. I signed and shared the petition because we have a collective responsibility to ensure that the film gets justice. While Kerala and Bollywood have a huge presence at the awards, a film from Assam should be given proper democratic representation as well.”


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