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Film-makers protest intolerance in India

Some direct­ors return their awards and others plan on respon­ding throug­h their work

Dibakar Banerjee of Kholsa Ka Ghosla fame was one of the many Bengali film-makers who returned government awards. PHOTO: FILE

Dibakar Banerjee of Kholsa Ka Ghosla fame was one of the many Bengali film-makers who returned government awards. PHOTO: FILE

KOLKATA: The move by film-maker Dibakar Banerjee and several others to return various government awards and honours as a mark of protest against impediments to freedom of speech and expression has evoked a mixed response from others in West Bengal.

Actor Sudipta Chakrabarti, who won the National Award for Best Supporting Actress for Bariwali, likened the honours as “weapons” for film-makers, but said she is not considering a similar stand at the moment. “I am not thinking of returning the award at this moment, but if there is a collective effort, then I will support it,” she said.

Shabdo director Kaushik Ganguly feels that protesting through his own medium (making a film) is much more significant for him. “I respect the filmmakers’ decision to return the awards. But others may have different ways of agitating. I may use films or writing as the way to protest,” he said.

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The film-makers who returned the awards on Wednesday are Anand Patwardhan, Dibakar Banerjee, Paresh Kamdar, Nishtha Jain, Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri and Lipika Singh Darai. They expressed solidarity with the agitating Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students in Pune. The development came on Wednesday, hours after three prominent alumni of FTII announced that they would return their national awards to protest “an atmosphere of intolerance” in the country in the last few months.

This is not the first instance that Indian artists protested against growing intolerance in their country. Earlier this month writers Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Gurbachan Bhullar and Canada-based writer Waryam Sandhu gave up their literary awards as a form of protest.

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The litterateurs said that they were giving up their awards to protest against the killings of writers MM Kalburgi in Karnataka in August this year and Narendra Dabholkar in 2013, stressing that they were shocked at the level of intolerance on freedom of speech and expression. They pointed out that free speech and writing was being suppressed under the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They also said that the recent lynching of a Muslim man on suspicion of eating beef showed that a communal atmosphere was being built up. 

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2015.

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