Filmmakers oppose 'political censorship' at MIFF, say films critical of government excluded

Mumbai, Jan 28 (PTI) Renowned filmmakers, including Anand Patwardhan, on Tuesday alleged that their films have been left out from the current edition of the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) as they were critical of the ruling government.

The five-day festival, which begins January 28, is organised by Films Division, which falls under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Patwardhan, along with fellow directors Pankaj Rishi Kumar and Pradeep K P (Deepu), claimed that I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar had set up a 'sanskari panel' through his ministry to filter films for the festival.

'We have learnt some inside information that even Films Division was not involved in forming the selection team. It was set by the I&B ministry, that is Javadekar himself, and that selection panel was brought to Mumbai and kept in a hotel for one month. Their (the government's) chosen people did the selection,' Patwardhan told reporters here.

The filmmaker, best known for 'Ram Ke Naam', said earlier the regional offices of Films Division would select the films in the preliminary round, which would then come to Mumbai for the central body's approval.

'That whole procedure has been changed,' Patwardhan said.

The films which have not made the cut this year include Patwardhan's 'Vivek' ('Reason'), which documents the ascendancy of a particular political ideology in recent times.

It covers the murders of rationalists such as Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh and investigates the connection of these crimes to various sectarians outfits.

Kumar's 'Janani's Juliet' follows the story of Indianostrum, a Puducherry-based theatre group, which, disturbed by a spate of honour killings in India, sets out to introspect the implications of caste, class and gender.

Other films include Pradeep's 'Our Gauri', which follows the life of journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead in Benagluru in 2017, 'Ammi', which talks about JNU student Najeeb, who is missing since 2016, and singer Sona Mohapatra's docu 'Shut Up Sona'.

'There has been a clear malpractice... They have done political censorship. It has nothing to do with the merit of a film. A film can have 100 awards, but if it isn't criticising the government, then it won't be taken.

'If you look at their catalogue, you can tell if you find a single film which is critical of the government... Any film which has been slightly critical has been left out,' Patwardhan said.

Calling the rejection of the films an 'attack on cinema', Pradeep alleged that institutions in the country, like Films Division, were being shaped as per 'right-wing thinking'.

'The question is not only about how our films were not selected but about how ideologically these institutions are getting framed towards the right wing thinking pattern, their representation. It is an attack on cinema.

'You're actually telling that people can't deal with these issues in cinema. If you do, we won't show it. That's a big threat to the art of cinema, irrespective of the politics we talk about in the film,' the documentary maker said.

The comments of the filmmakers came a day after Patwardhan and Kumar withdrew a plea against rejection of their films from the MIFF after the Union government told Bombay High Court the decision was based on criteria and not the critical content of the documentaries. PTI JUR RDS BK BK