Congress supporters on Sunday again staged protests forcing filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar to cancel a press conference about his new film ‘Indu Sarkar’, set in the backdrop of the period of Emergency from 1975 to 1977. A day earlier, Congress supporters had staged an unauthorised dharna in Pune, forcing the filmmaker to cancel his press conference about the film, which they say portrays former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in a bad light.
On Sunday, protests by party workers forced Bhandarkar to shift venues thrice and eventually to cancel the press conference before he returned to Mumbai. Bhandarkar at first announced that the press conference would be held at the Port-au-Gomez restaurant. However, Congress supporters gathered there in large numbers and started shouting slogans against the filmmaker.
Organisers then informed the media that the venue of the conference had been shifted to Hotel Centre Point. But no press conference was held there either as the protesters followed the mediapersons to the new venue. From there, mediapersons were directed to a third venue, Hotel Airport Centre Point, but the protests followed them there too.
The conference was then cancelled. Atul Londhe, Congress spokesperson, said, “We are not against anybody’s freedom of expression, but it should not be an excuse to distort history. People are misled into believing things which are not true about Emergency.”
Defending the protests against Bhandarkar, he said, “The new generation needs to know about the international background when Emergency was declared. America was making every effort to contain the strong leadership of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Some forces in the country were being funded by the US. So Gandhi had to insert the words ‘Socialist and Secular’ in the Constitution to save democracy. And if she had wanted to become a dictator, she wouldn’t have declared elections after 18 months.”
He further said, “And let us not forget, the people returned her to power within three years by discarding nincompoop”, referring to the Jan Sangh government, adding, “If we had not protested, people would have thought that we have accepted the factually incorrect depiction.” Bhandarkar told The Indian Express over phone, “I’m appalled and don’t understand what I’ve done wrong. My film only has the backdrop of Emergency and is mostly fiction, so where is the question of distortion? Several documentaries have been made and books have been written on Emergency, so why is only my film being opposed?”
Bhandarkar’s film has come at a time when opponents of the current dispensation at the Centre claim that it has imposed an “undeclared Emergency” in the country and in this narrative his film could be seen as making a political statement. When this was asked of Bhandarkar, he replied, “I’m not a political person and my understanding of politics is limited. I have made award winning films and I’m not a fly-by-night filmmaker. And I’ve even won a national award. All I can say is, if this film had any political intention or leaning, I would have made it just before the 2019 elections. And it could well have been a film based fully on Emergency instead of being a fiction.”
He added, “I would rather say that the top leadership of the Congress should prevail upon its workers and make them understand reality. I’m even ready to play a disclaimer in the film. I thank the Nagpur Police for preventing any untoward incident today.”