Filmmakers, actors discuss dissent and communalism

Act of resistance: (From left) Panellists Anand Patwardhan, Sushant Singh, Rasika Agashe, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Swara Bhaskar at the Mumbai Collective.

Act of resistance: (From left) Panellists Anand Patwardhan, Sushant Singh, Rasika Agashe, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Swara Bhaskar at the Mumbai Collective.   | Photo Credit: Vivek Bendre

The good thing about fascism is that it is unsustainable: Anand Patwardhan

Vocal critics of the current government, filmmakers Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Anand Patwardhan, actors Sushant Singh, Swara Bhaskar, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and theatre director and writer Rasika Agashe, spoke unabashedly about the “prevalent fear and hate politics” in the country, and called for “active participation in dissent”. The auditorium at YB Chavan Centre could barely contain the audience’s enthusiasm, as the floor was opened to the questions after the no-holds-barred conversation on ‘Artists against communalism’, which was part of the Mumbai Collective on Saturday.

Mr. Patwardhan said he submitted his documentary Reason, which examines the rise of Hindutva ideology in India, to Mumbai International Film Festival to “trouble the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, despite knowing that they would reject it”. The biennial film festival of non feature films is organised by the Films Division. “But in the process, we found out that they also rejected a few other films that discuss the relationship [between] and co-existence of Hindus and Muslims in India,” he said.

The panel discussed “the fear that looms over artists” who speak up against the current government. Mr. Singh said, “But one positive thing in all this is, look at how many A-listers were there in that infamous selfie with Narendra Modi, but there were no A-listers who attended the meeting with [Railways and Commerce Minister] Piyush Goyal, and that is also an act of resistance.”

According to Ms. Bhaskar, more than being apolitical, Bollywood is quick to react to problematic incidents shown in the news, like a scene of lynching in Baaghi 2. “So for popular culture to change, we need to change popular thinking,” she said.

Mr. Ayyub agreed with her, adding that “the act of resistance” must be “taken at every step”. After the attack on the students in Jamia in December last year, Mr. Ayyub had visited the campus in solidarity with the students. “For me it felt like an attack on my whole existence since that’s the area which I have seen for years growing up,” he said.

The “fight against fascism” for Ms. Agashe goes beyond voting the BJP out of power. “For me it involves confronting our families on WhatsApp groups, our neighbours who maybe bigoted, who are fed wrong stories over the years. As artists, it is upon us to tell them our stories, be it the story of Rohith Vemula or Gauri Lankesh,” she said.

The panel also discussed the need to discuss the Citizenship Amendment Act, National Register of Citizens and the scrapping of Article 370 with those “outside the echo chamber”.

“The good thing about fascism is that it is unsustainable, and history has proven that,” said Mr. Patwardhan.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 10:58:03 AM |

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