| Tabu: On Bhopal date
If one BJP government has opened its doors for Taslima Nasreen, another has refused to shut them on M.F. Husain’s work.
Husain’s Meenaxi — A Tale of Three Cities was screened on Wednesday at the film festival in Bhopal in spite of muted protests from ministers and Sangh parivar activists.
Minutes before the screening of the Tabu-starrer, culture minister Laxmikant Sharma said: “I do not know how it has been approved. I will see how it can be stopped.”
But when he approached the chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan told him to avoid controversy.
The week-long film festival is being organised by the state government together with the IAS officers’ association.
At 92, the painter is hated in the BJP and the Sangh parivar. In Indore, Sangh activists have filed several cases against his depiction of Hindu goddesses. Several groups have said they want him beheaded, his eyes gouged and his hands chopped off.
Facing death threats and court cases, Husain left the country and now lives in Dubai and London.
Local Bajrang Dal convener Devendra Rawat fumed that had he got “clearance” from the top, he would have stopped the screening of the “offensive film”. Asked if he had seen Meenaxi, Rawat said he was not a “pervert”.
Produced in 2004, the film is the story of Nawab, a popular Hyderabadi novelist suffering from a writer’s block who finds an unusual muse in a woman named Meenaxi. Hyderabad, Jaisalmer and Prague are the three cities in the title.
A source close to the chief minister justified the screening: “We in the Sangh parivar are against his outrageous depiction of Hindu goddesses and not against the artist.”
The state government has published a book with Husain’s Mother Teresa on the cover, the source added.
The screening comes a day after Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi invited controversial author Taslima Nasreen, kept out of Bengal, to live in the western state.
But the Opposition Congress is less than impressed. Party spokesperson Manak Aggarwal said the Chauhan regime, facing the heat in the Assembly over corruption charges, had simply avoided raking up another controversy. “The chief minister and his wife face serious allegations of misconduct,” he said.
Aggarwal pointed to the Bajrang Dal’s demonstration in Bhopal in May supporting an exhibition of paintings titled The Face of Terror, which showed Muslims as terrorists. The exhibition was organised by Kailash Tiwari, who has led several campaigns against Husain.