Following pressure from right-wing groups led by the Akhil Bhartiya Brahmin Mahasabha, the City Pride multiplex in Pune’s Kothrud area has cancelled screenings of the multiple award-winning Marathi film Dashakriya .
The Mahasabha has demanded that theatres ban screenings of the film as it allegedly depicted the Brahmin community in a “highly objectionable manner”, showing them as individuals driven solely by love of lucre.
The much-anticipated film is slated for release on Friday.
Confirming the development, Govind Kulkarni of the ABBM said: “We met with a number of theatre owners across the state and many, including City Pride in Kothrud and Mangala Talkies in Pune, have acceded to our request and cancelled advance bookings of the film.”
Speaking to The Hindu , Mr. Kulkarni further claimed that some theatres in Jalgaon and Aurangabad districts, as well as in parts of Mumbai like Virar and Nala Sopara, had accepted the outfit’s demand of prohibiting screenings of the film.
“We are determined not to permit screenings of the film as it has hurt sentiments of the Brahmin community. It wrongly depicts Hindu traditions by portraying Brahmins as people who perform the last rites of deceased individuals solely for their commercial gain,” said Anand Dave, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Brahmin Mahasabha.
Mr. Dave said that the Mahasabha had petitioned the Pune Police Commissioner on its demands and warned that its members would launch a statewide agitation to halt screenings of the film.
The film shows the susceptibility of an emotionally distraught family of a recently-deceased to rites and rituals. The movie follows the family as it readily performs the final rites on the 13th day after cremation as per the instructions of Kirvants (members of the Brahmin community), whose sole intention is to acquire money whilst providing spurious spiritual solace.
Both the book and the film, which won three awards at the 64th National Awards, powerfully critique social prejudice and all-pervasive inequality.
The film’s director, Sandip Patil, had earlier invited the Mahasabha’s members to watch his film in order to judge whether or not it was indeed ‘objectionable’
However, the Mahasabha turned down Mr. Patil’s invitation of a screening.
“How can they [Mahasabha and other Brahmin outfits] judge by watching a two-minute promo whether or not the film offends their sentiments without even watching the entire movie? The film has been passed by the Censor Board and has already been screened at festivals in Mumbai, Pune and Goa. Why didn’t the outfits object then? Were they slumbering at the time?” said a frustrated Mr. Patil, remarking that the Mahasabha’s ‘protests’ were tantamount to “hooliganism” and “coercion”.
Meanwhile, the anti-Brahmin, pro-Maratha Sambhaji Brigade has lashed out at the Mahasabha’s demands, dubbing its attitude “regressive”.
“We urge the state government to show it [ Dashakriya ] tax free in a bid to edify and free the public of blind faith and rituals,” said Santosh Shinde of the Sambhaji Brigade, speaking to The Hindu .
Mr. Shinde further said that the Brigade’s activists were determined to fight the Mahasbha tooth-and-nail if its members attempted to oppose screenings of the film.
The film, based on the 1994 novel by Baba Bhand , has been passed by the censors who awarded it a ‘U’ certificate. Curiously, the Mahasabha or any other Brahmin group never protested against the novel in the 25-odd years since its publication.