By Utpal Borpujari
Top filmmakers have strongly condemned the unofficial “ban” imposed by the government on a 41-year-old documentary by noted painter M F Hussain, which was scheduled to be screened on the sidelines of the 39th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa on Tuesday, following protests by some fringe Hinduvta organizations.
The film, Through the Eyes of a Painter (1967), was scheduled to be screened as part of “Framing Time”, a special screening programme organised by the Films Division to celebrate its diamond jubilee coinciding with IFFI, but senior Information & Broadcasting Ministry officials told Sakaal Times the screening had been “deferred”.
“This is ridiculous and absolutely wrong. Just because some people have problems with a film’s maker, a film cannot be banned in this way. It is against the tenets of Freedom of Expression,” noted Assamese filmmaker Jahnu Barua said.
“The film should be shown by all means. If anybody has any objection it is due to its interpretation which is a personal matter. Artistes should not suffer because of politics,” said Dadasaheb Phalke Award-winning filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, while leading documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma said, “We absolutely condemn the ban.”
The film is the 93-year-old artist’s impressions of Rajasthan and has been described by those who have watched it as a “beautiful experience”. “I have seen the film at least six times and it has got nothing that can be objectionable to anyone,” said Barua.
The screening of Hussain’s 18-minute film, said Directorate of Film Festival director S M Khan, “has been deferred for the time being” as there were some objections to it. The decision was taken, the sources said, following protests by Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) which led Goa Chief Minister Digambar Kamat to request the Ministry not to screen the film.
“There are 1,250 cases pending against Hussain for insulting the Hindu religion. How can he be a part of any festival sponsored by the government?” HJS’ Sushant Dalvi said after writing to the Goa Chief Minister, the DFF and the Entertainment Society of Goa earlier.
While initially both FD and DFF had taken a stand that the film would be screened, finally all concerned apparently succumbed to the pressure from the fringe groups as well as the state government that apprehended ‘trouble’.