P. Sheshadri, who has won eight national awards in a row, has run into a controversy with his recent film December 1. Here’s a look at the situation…
Sheshadri, who enjoys the credit of making films on contemporary issues, has been drawn into a controversy for the first time when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently acquired the right of screening his film Bharat Stores, which discusses the larger implications of Foreign Direct Investment, when the Lok Sabha elections were round the corner. BJP tried to embarrass the ruling Congress, under whose regime the FDI came into force. Fate of the award winning film December 1 is no different. The film is a critique on the innovative programme launched by former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, Grama Vastavya (village stay) who headed BJP and Janata Dal (S) government for 20 months. Some of Sheshadri’s friends who watched the film advised that he should release it as a run up to the Lok Sabha elections. But Sheshadri’s intentions were different; he didn’t want to make use of the politically charged atmosphere, his film was meant for the audience. However, Sheshadri could not escape from controversy, the film invited the wrath of the former chief minister Kumaraswamy. Accusing the film maker of portraying his well-intentioned pro-people programme in poor light, Kumaraswamy said the intention of some directors are to make films that will certainly win awards. He also said that the film misguides the people and fails to capture Kumaraswamy’s genuine concern for the rural people. “I challenge Sheshadri to prove that my programme has had an adverse effect on the lives of villagers, in places where I conducted Grama Vastavya.” If this is one side of the story, Sheshadri has also been accused of not giving credit to people who helped him write the script. Sheshadri undeterred by criticism, claims he was not inspired by the writings of those who are making baseless claims. “I have already made it clear that I was inspired by a news report in a Kannada daily on Grama Vastavya which captured the after effects of the much acclaimed programme. I decided to make December 1 after elaborate discussions with the friends,” says Sheshadri who bags the eighth consecutive National award.
“The former Chief Minister is levelling allegations even without watching the film. There is a disclaimer in the beginning of the film that says, ‘All characters in the film are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental’. Many chief ministers have stayed in the houses of poor in villages and none have objected. I don’t know why Kumaraswamy thinks it is about his programme,” he argues. “Though the characters are fictitious, this celluloid work is based on real incident. The real characters affected refused to talk to me. But to bring authenticity, I did a lot of research and visited many villages where the Chief Ministers stayed overnight,” he asserts, adding that “it is not a political film, but a film with political background”.
But the fact is Kumaraswamy stayed with a HIV affected family in Ingalagi village of Bagalkot Taluk in 2007 to dispel the stigma against the disease. “I made a public announcement before spending a night with the family and there was no secrecy, as depicted in the film”, Kumaraswamy says categorically.
The film itself criticises an entire range of usual suspects -- an over enthusiastic media, which is hungry for breaking news, insensitive bureaucrats and selfish localities. However, in reality, former chief minister Kumaraswamy had declared his intentions to stay with a HIV affected family prior to his visit. In the film, however, this becomes ‘breaking news’ after the visit, just to demonise the media. In a hurry to arrive at pre-determined conclusions, the film not only loses its intensity, but also becomes a negation of truth.