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Deepa Mehta to seek Centre's intervention

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, JAN. 31. The last of her much talked about trilogy, Water, having run into rough weather, with the Sangh Parivar destroying the sets in Varanasi on Sunday morning, film- maker Deepa Mehta is here in the Capital to mobilise support for the film.

Talking to The Hindu over telephone soon after reaching here, Ms. Mehta said she would try to seek the Central Government's intervention to save the film that has Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in the lead roles. Apparently the Uttar Pradesh Government has made it imperative that the Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Mr. Arun Jaitley, speak to the Chief Minister before production of the film starts afresh.

Already, the production of the film has been stopped following Sunday's rampage. ``It took the production team six weeks to set up the sets, and we were to begin shooting on Sunday,'' said Ms. Mehta, whose film Fire had run into trouble with the Sangh Parivar because of its lesbian theme and Hindu identities given to the protagonists.

According to Ms. Mehta, the script for Water had been shown to the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry as per the law. ``It was passed by the Ministry without a single cut. The Ministry had even appointed a liaison officer to monitor the shooting and ensure that the film does not deviate from the script.''

Further, Ms. Mehta said, she had addressed the local media three days ago to assuage any fears the locals might have had about the film. ``I was told that I should open the script to public scrutiny.'' Of the view that this reflected distrust in the decision of the Central Government, she questioned aloud: ``Since when has every citizen of India become the Censor Board?''

Some of the charges levelled against this film are that it denigrates Hinduism and the Ganga; is about an illicit relationship between a Brahmin woman and an untouchable man; that it is made with Christian funding and is part of a Christian conspiracy to undermine Hinduism....

Rejecting each of these arguments, Ms. Mehta says: ``Even if it were all these, what is the problem? Doesn't a law-abiding citizen have the right to freedom of expression or is it the exclusive right of those who blatantly violate the law? I'm a film-maker, not a politician. Had such a situation prevailed back then, probably India would never have seen films of the order of Sujata and Achhut Kanya.''

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