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PIL disputes jury tag on Assamese film

Calcutta, April 18: Delhi High Court today admitted a PIL filed by enajori.com, a socio-cultural organisation, regarding the classification of Ekhon Nedekha Nadir Xhipare as a “non-Assamese” film by the National Film Awards jury this year.

Acting Chief Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri asked the Directorate of Film Festivals to file a counter-affidavit by April 25 to explain why director Bidyut Kotoky’s film was rejected despite having obtained Censor Board certification as an Assamese film.

Debojit Borkakati, counsel for the petitioners, said, “The film was rejected on arbitrary grounds. The jury reportedly rejected it on the grounds that it had actors from Mumbai and on grounds of language. The directorate of film festivals has certain guidelines before a film is admitted before the jury. One of them is that the Central Board of Film Certification must approve the film. Ekhon Nedekha Nadir Xhipare already had the censor board’s approval. So there were no grounds for the jury to have disqualified it.”

In course of the proceedings, the bench was also of the view that the producers of the film, National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), should have approached the court regarding the film.

To this, the counsel replied that the move would not have been possible, as the corporation comes under the information and broadcasting ministry, same as the directorate.

The court subsequently included NFDC as a respondent, along with the Directorate of Film Festivals, Borkakati said.

The petitioners also asked for a hearing before May 3, when the National Awards presentation ceremony is due to be held.

Enajori.com founder Himjyoti Talukdar initiated the petition to claim justice for the film.

“We are not raising questions about the merits of the film. That is for the jury to judge. All we want is that the film be given due credit as an Assamese movie. We want to restore its identity,” he said.

Director Bidyut Kotoky had said he would not have questioned the jury’s decision if they had said it was a bad film but he was disappointed at the jury’s dismissal of it as “non-Assamese”.

On the high court order he said, “I am extremely happy that someone I don’t even know personally has taken up the cause. I had never seen it as a personal battle. I am glad that someone has seen the whole issue as I wanted it to be seen, and tried to reclaim its identity, as more than 75 per cent of the film is in Assamese.”

Actor Victor Banerjee expressed happiness at the fresh development and at the continuous support that the campaign for the film had been receiving.

The film’s cause had earlier been taken up in a petition signed by veterans such as actress Nandita Das, director Govind Nihalani, Amol Gupte and others.

Delhi-based Tituraj Kashyap, who is from Assam, said, “It is indeed sad that we had to see this day. A wonderful cinematic experience set in the backdrop of Assamese culture, directed by an Assamese and shot in Assam has to prove its identity to certain people who think otherwise.”