The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Films find voice, finally
- Blackouts force movie-makers to speak out in unison

Mumbai, Feb. 11: For far too long, filmdom has suffered the gag of politics. But Parzania was the last straw.

In a gesture of unity never seen before in Bollywood, top industry bodies and filmmakers today came together to protest against repeated restrictions on realistic cinema and demanded that the central government do something to protect screen freedom.

Apex bodies like the Indian Motion Picture Producer’s Association, Film Producer’s Guild, Western India Film Producer’s Association and the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees were joined by Mahesh Bhatt, Anurag Kashyap, Madhur Bhandarkar, Ketan Mehta and Sudhir Mishra in the show of unity in Andheri.

The trigger for the protest was the stalling of Rahul Dholakia’s Parzania, based on a Parsi couple’s real-life search for their teenage son lost in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The Multiplex Owners’ Association in Gujarat decided not to show the film after Dholakia refused to allow Babu Bajrangi, a Bajrang Dal leader alleged to have masterminded the massacre of 83 people, to attend a special screening.

Among other films that have been yanked off screens in different parts of the country are Kashyap’s Black Friday, based on the 1993 Mumbai blasts, and Bhandarkar’s Traffic Signal, which has been banned in Himachal Pradesh.

“I have been fighting my battles alone, and it is the need of the hour that the industry unites and confront the authorities to protect our fundamental rights of freedom and expression,” Kashyap said.

Black Friday was scheduled to open the Second Patna Film Festival on February 9, but was not screened reportedly after a protest by Hindutva elements.

Bhatt said it was important that the industry took a stand. “After procuring a legal document called the censor certificate, no one has the right to stop my film.”

Bhandarkar, whose film has been banned as the Kinnar community felt offended by the use of the word kinnar, a euphemism for eunuchs, said: “I am told they took offence to the word kinnar during my interviews. But Kinnar happens to be a district in Himachal.”

Mishra recalled how the Shiv Sena restricted the release of Dharavi on the ground that the film portrayed the people of Asia’s largest slum in a bad light.

“We want to ask the Union of India to tell its states to acknowledge their responsibility to protect a film’s release, once it has got a censor certificate. Otherwise, it creates an atmosphere of fear where young filmmakers will be forced to steer away from real issues.”

The filmmakers and the industry associations have resolved to approach the President and the information and broadcasting minister to safeguard the right of the industry. They also decided to move courts if the Centre does not respond to their demand.

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