Filmmakers return National Awards to protest “growing intolerance”

After writers returned their awards and honours to protest the “growing intolerance in the country”, a group of filmmakers have also returned their National Awards on Wednesday protesting impediments to freedom of speech and expression and expressing solidarity with the agitating students of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).

The filmmakers urged the government to "urgently reveal its commitment" to protect the freedom of expression of each citizen. "Murders of rationalists are not random acts of violence. People being murdered for their beliefs and opinions... If we don't protest now, we're in danger of being part of flattening diversity," the filmmakers said in a signed statement to the President and the Prime Minister.

"We are disenchanted with what is happening in the country," said Anand Patwardhan who had won the award for ‘Bombay Our City’ (1984). He said he was “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.

Dibakar Baneerjee honoured for his popular film ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’ (2007) returned the award expressing solidarity with the FTII students who were agitating the ‘political appointment’ of TV actor Gajendra Chauhan.

 "Returning my National Award is not easy. What we teach and learn today is what we live tomorrow. FTII students are asking for right gurus,” he said.

“Our past glory is being cited as the reason for many acts and deeds today. To me, that glory was an education system that encouraged questioning, argument, debate and a give and take of ideas,” Banerjee added. Claiming that the decision was not politically motivated, the filmmaker said, it was “motivated by my conscience... I am returning it to try and raise public attention.”

FTII alumnus Nishtha Jain who received the award for ‘Gulaabi Gang’ (2014) protested “a fascist state in the making” and said, “It is the duty of all thinking citizens to speak out before it becomes too late.” She was also giving up the award in the memory of slain rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and MM Kalburgi. She also protested the lynching of Mohammed Ikhlaq on rumours of eating beef and the two Dalit children allegedly burnt alive by upper-caste men in Haryana.

The others who gave up their awards include  Paresh Kamdar, Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri and Lipika Singh Darai.

Earlier in the day prominent FTII alumnus Vikrant Pawar, Rakesh Shukla and Prateek Vats set the ball rolling by returning their National Awards.