Even as the row over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmavati rages on, and its actors face threats of violence, a similar situation is brewing in Pune over National Award-winning film Dashkriya, which is set to release on Friday. In a letter to Pune Police, the Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasabha, a Brahmin organisation, has claimed that the film “hurts Brahmin sentiments and shows them in poor light”. The organisation is now urging city theaters not to screen the movie.
While some cinema halls have decided to go ahead with the screening of the film, others have adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy. Neerav Panchamia, chief operating executive, E-Square, confirmed that the film would be screened at the theater. “We will only stop the screening if the producer and distributor ask us to do so, and so far we haven’t heard from them,” he said.
However, City Pride, a Pune-based theater chain, announced on Thursday that they have stopped taking bookings for the film until the issue is sorted out. “The bookings are on hold for now… it is not a permanent decision… it’s just that this group is opposing the film and we don’t want any kind of trouble… so, we have stopped taking advance bookings… on Friday, we will take a final call. We are keen on showing the film, in fact, we have allotted the maximum number of screens to the film, but we are just being cautious,” said Pushkaraj Chaphalkar, director of City Pride.
Sandeep Patil, director of Dashkriya, said the filmmakers have written a letter to the Maharashtra government, the Home Department and senior police officials, asking them to provide protection in theaters where the film is going to be screened. “The film release will go ahead as per the plan… we will not budge only because some group is exerting undue pressure. This film has received three National Awards, for best Marathi film, best screenplay and best supporting actor, and 11 state awards. It has also been appreciated at almost all major film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Goa and others,” said Patil.
“We also received an U certification from the Censor Board. If the movie has objectionable content, how could we win so many awards, and get a censor certificate? The protesters are reacting on the basis of a single dialogue in the trailer of the film. We invited them to come watch the film, but they refused to do so,” said Patil.
Writer Sanjay Patil also condemned the protest, terming it an “attack on creative freedom”. “If such is the case, then every filmmaker, writer and artiste would have to first issue a public advertisement announcing their next project and its scope, and ask all groups to send in their objections, before approaching any subject. This is ridiculous. They haven’t read the book on which the movie is based, they haven’t watched the film… they just want the movie banned due to some presumption. If this is allowed in a progressive state like Maharashtra, it would be a shame,” he said.
Actor Manoj Joshi, who won the National Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film, also condemned the protest which, he said, was “based on half-knowledge”.
The Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasabha, meanwhile, stuck to its stand. “Based on what is shown in the trailer of the film on YouTube, we have reasons to believe that some of the things shown in the movie are hurtful to the sentiments of people of our community and Hindu religion. Some of the depictions may also lead to communal tensions. We want the screenings of the movie to be stopped, and we urge cinema hall owners not to screen the movie. We have also written a letter to the Pune City Police Commissioner in this regard,” said Anand Dave, a member of the organisation.
“The film wrongfully depicts the rituals of Dashkriya, which are performed after the death of a person. In a free country, don’t we have the right to perform rituals as per religious texts, and don’t we have the right to protest when someone insults these traditions,” he asked.