Actors, writers stage dharna against the decision
The proposed screening of a film on painter M.F. Husain was postponed indefinitely by the organisers of the 42nd International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa 2011 on Sunday after right-wing groups like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) threatened an agitation.
Outraged by the decision, writers, film actors like Sridhar Kamat and Prashant Talpankar, and others held a dharna at the venue of the Open Forum of the IFFI. Actor Vikram Gokhale expressed his support to the protesters.
After meeting IFFI Director Shankar Mohan, Mr. Kamat told reporters that Mr. Mohan told them that as the HJS memorandum spoke about court cases against Husain, they were looking into the technicalities and if everything was fine, the film would be screened.
The IFFI had scheduled to screen on Sunday a documentary —Through The Eyes of the Painter— directed by Husain himself on his journey through Rajasthan, as a homage to the painter who died recently.
This is the second time that the IFFI organisers in Goa have succumbed to the pressure by the Hindu right-wing groups not to screen the documentary on Husain.
In IFFI 2009, the film scheduled for screening by National Films Division Corporation had been withdrawn at the last minute following HJS threats to disrupt the screening.
Chief Minister Digambar Kamat had then indicated that they had decided to avoid any untoward situation in the larger interest of the security of the filmmakers and delegates.
The right-wing Hindu groups have been aggressive and loud in their protests in recent times harping on “hurt to Hindu sentiments.” “Cultural policing” by such groups has been on rise in the State in recent times, creative people here point out.
On several occasions, exhibitions have been cancelled or controversial pictures withdrawn by organisers. The creative people blame the soft-pedalling of such cases by the government as the main cause for rising intolerance against “freedom of expression” by groups whose common refrain was “sentiments of a community being hurt.”
When the IFFI began last week, the Goa wing of the HJS had written to the IFFI organisers objecting to a film section meant to pay homage to Husain and warned of protests.
The same organisation had started a sustained campaign against him for being “anti-Hindu” and sued the painter for some of his paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses. In its letter, the HJS urged the organisers not to pay tributes to the painter.
A HJS delegation, led by women's wing chief Rajashree Gadekar, last week met Manoj Srivastava, Chief Executive Officer of the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) asking him to drop the tributes section.
However, the ESG, which is a Goa government's nodal agency for the IFFI, told the delegation that the section was curated by the IFFI Directorate. The delegation then handed over a memorandum to the Directorate.