The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rang De runs into mother’s rage

Mumbai, Nov. 8: After winning India’s official ticket to the Oscars, Rang De Basanti has made a splash again.

Not for the right reasons, though.

Kavita Gadgil, the woman whose campaign against flying coffins inspired Rang De, has hit out at the film’s makers for allegedly not honouring their promise to raise funds for a memorial she is building for air force pilots killed on duty.

Gadgil claimed at a news conference today that Rang De director Rakeysh Mehra and his team had promised to organise a charity show to raise funds for the Pune memorial but had not fulfilled it.

“The film gave a message to the youth and tried to inspire them to be socially committed to a cause. The film has been a huge hit… and is now going to the Oscars. But Mehra does not want to help a cause that inspired the film in the first place. I feel completely cheated.”

In 2003, Gadgil had fought a lone battle against the defence establishment for the rising number of MiG crashes, two years after her 26-year-old son Abhijeet died in a crash during a routine MiG 21 sortie.

Although the air force had initially blamed the crash on “pilot error”, Gadgil’s campaign — she gheraoed then defence minister George Fernandes and met the President — had forced them to acknowledge there were technical reasons at play also.

Gadgil had then set out to build a memorial for fighter pilots and soldiers at her farmhouse near Sinhagad in Pune.

She and her husband are also setting up an aerospace institute.

“When they were making the film, Mehra and his team came and met me to get details of my campaign. Later, before the January 26 release of the film, they promised to organise a charity show on January 19.

“But, it was impossible to sell the tickets in such a short time, so I asked for more time. There has been no response from them after that despite several letters and emails,” Gadgil told reporters here.

She is angry that Mehra is now trying to get the service chiefs — he has written to them — to endorse Rang De in the run-up to the Oscars.

“He wants to use the service chiefs’ endorsement to propel his commercial product onto the international stage, but what is he prepared to give in return to the services' Or to the pilots whose supreme sacrifice… he has so effectively used'”

Work on the memorial has started. The Gadgils have put in Rs 60 lakh and are trying to tap corporate funds.

“I want to make one thing clear that I do not want to extract money from Mehra and his team. Funds are trickling in…. Tata Motors has already donated a truck for the flight simulator.”

Rang De was cleared for public screenings after the defence top brass saw the movie.

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