After writers and artists, filmmakers too have decided to voice their anger at the growing intolerance that is prevailing in the country. In the latest salvo against intolerance, 13 filmmakers have decided to return awards to protest against, what they call, the government’s rising intolerance towards the ongoing FTII issue, as well as the killings of Govind Pansare, Kalburgi, and Mohammed Akhlaq.
10 prominent filmmakers returned to the government various awards and honours they had received, protesting impediments to freedom of speech and expression, and showing solidarity with the agitating FTII students .
The filmmaker who returned their awards are, Anand Patwardhan, Dibakar Banerjee, Paresh Kamdar, Nishtha Jain, Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri, and Lipika Singh Darai.
“As filmmakers, we stand firmly with the students of FTII and are determined to not let them shoulder the entire burden of their protests. They have mounted a historic struggle and we urge others within our fraternity to come forward and carry this protest forward,” the 10 filmmakers said, in a memorandum signed by them.
The development came hours after three prominent alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, announced that they would return their national awards to protest against “an atmosphere of intolerance” in the country in the last few months. They are Vikrant Pawar of Maharashtra, Rakesh Shukla of Uttar Pradesh, and Prateek Vats of Goa.
In a signed statement released at a press conference, in the evening, they urged the central government to “urgently reveal its commitment” to protect the freedom of expression of each citizen. “I never thought I would ever return my award… If the FTII’s ethos are protected and strengthened, not only shall I consider taking back my award, but will hand out 10 other awards with joy,” Banerjee said.
Claiming that the decision was not politically motivated, he said, it was “motivated by my conscience… I am returning it to try and raise public attention. I am not here out of anger, outrage. Those emotions have long been exhausted. I am here to draw attention. Returning my very first National Award which I received for ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’ is not easy. It was my first film and for many my most loved,” Banerjee told a press conference.
Patwardhar said that, he is “more afraid today than during the Emergency days, because now there are roving gangs looking to do violence against anyone who speaks out”.
“We appeal to the people, not the government… We want to be party of the awakening that is happening around the country with scientists, artistes and writers returning their honours,” Patwardhan added.
Nishtha Jain, an FTII alumnus, said, the national award is still not corrupted and holds up a high standard, which is why it was painful to return it. She added that this was “the beginning of my protest, not the end… We have to think of more clever ways of protests…”.