Twenty-Four more filmmakers, writers, cinematographers among others have announced their decision to return their national awards to protest against “the threat to the academic culture at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)” and “the horror at people being attacked and killed for their beliefs”.
The decision was announced at a press conference on Thursday. The list includes veteran filmmakers Saeed Mirza, Kundan Shah, writer Arundhati Roy, cinematographer Satya Rai Nagpaul, documentary filmmakers Madhushree Dutta, Sanjay Kak and Ajay Raina.
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Last week, 12 filmmakers, including Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan, had made a similar announcement.
“In response to the students’ call to the filmmaking fraternity, 12 of our colleagues lent strength to their protest by announcing their intention last week to return their national awards. Their gesture was a plea to the government, to take notice of the students’ demands and resolve the issue. It was also a protest against the growing intolerance in the country,” said a joint statement issued by the new group of filmmakers.
“We watched with disappointment how the ruling party’s leaders and supporters abused these filmmakers and belittled their gesture. This has been the consistent response of the powers that be, towards the writers, academics, scientists, filmmakers, historians and artists who have expressed their dismay over the increasing climate of intolerance. Rather than see our fellow filmmakers mocked, we have decided to stand with them and yet again bring public attention back to the manner in which the current government is responding to dissent and debate,” they said.
They, however, added that each of them had their own reason for returning the award. For instance, Mirza, who was FTII’s chairperson till Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment, blamed the previous regimes too. “The forces that lay in the shadows at the time of our independence have emerged into the sunlight. They are in power both at the overt and covert levels. Will my handing over a national award change things around? Frankly, I don’t know. All I know is I have to raise my voice against this state of affairs,” he said.
While expressing concern over FTII, most of them added that they were also concerned about a clampdown on any form of dissent.
Asked about the timing of their decision, amid questions on why they had not returned the awards after the anti-Sikh riots, Shah, known for his political satire Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, said: “We made a mistake that we didn’t return the awards before. Do we have to repeat that mistake now and remain quiet?”