What about my freedom of expression?, asks a peeved Madhur Bhandarkar

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 17 Jul 2017 10:38:49


By Aasawari Shenolikar,

“If you don’t agree with my views, don’t watch movie, why are you hounding me and intimidating entire crew ?”

One film cannot change history, says Madhur Bhandarkar while questioning the mindless opposition of Congressmen over movie ‘Indu Sarkar’ dealing with dark chapter of Emergency

Madhur Bhandarkar is scared. Scared not for himself. Scared for the well-being of his artists who are travelling across the country for promoting his next film titled Indu Sarkar. Scared because somewhere he finds that his fundamental right granted by the Constitution of India - the right to freedom of expression is being threatened. He is being hounded for making a film that has as its backdrop -
emergency, one of the darkest chapters of Indian history.
Bhandarkar while talking exclusively to The Hitavada, lays bare his heart and soul as he narrates how difficult it is for a filmmaker to deal when his film is being targeted for no rhyme or reason. “I have gone hoarse telling one and all, including the Censor Board that Indu Sarkar is a work of fiction. 70% of the film is fiction, emergency era only forms the backdrop of the film. It does not point to any individual, it is neither a docudrama nor is it any kind of commentary on the emergency,” he says. In a democratic country that takes pride in its secularism and of the many fundamental rights bestowed on its citizens, it is shocking that a work of fiction can cause so much strife and stress. “My film is a film on woman empowerment. '

It is a woman-centric film that talks of the journey of a girl who stammers. She has a clash of ideology with her husband and she is advised to find her voice. It is a journey of the blossoming of a woman who is submissive and passive. That it happens in the backdrop of emergency does not mean that I am commenting on any individual from that era. When the government talks of empowering our women, giving voice to our voice, the film is just a medium of showing that the woman of today has risen and is shining.” He rues the fact that no one has seen his film, “Yet they are shouting slogans, judging it and
taking such a harsh stance that it is hazardous not only to me but to the entire team travelling with me."

A day before their press conference in Pune was disrupted and they were made hostages within their own room. In Nagpur, the situation was no different. "I am extremely thankful to Commissioner of Police Dr K Venkatesham, who warned us that it might be dangerous for us to go ahead with the Press Conference as a huge mob of Congress workers was likely to interrupt the conference. I and Kriti Kulhari (the actor who plays the lead) had to change three cars before we reached the airport. It was a situation straight out of a crime thriller."

Laying bare his angst, he asks, "Haven't books been written on Emergency? Thick books that lay bare everything can be found at book stores and libraries even today. Doordarshan showed a five part documentary on Emergency and I am sure it is still in their archives. Information on emergency is available on YouTube also. People have reconstructed emergency in plays too. Actors have played strong parts of characters who were active during that time. When such a material is available freely on so many sites, why should a work of fiction be made a target. We are being suppressed. Do you eradicate material on emergency that is available on the public domain?"

At every stage of the film making he was advised to restrain himself from adding anything that might prove detrimental to the marketing and subsequent release of the film. He claims that he has been cautious at every stage - during scripting, during editing, during dubbing. "But then there comes a point where I said, 'no more' because my freedom of expression was being questioned. The Censor Board has asked me to put a disclaimer. I have agreed to do so. So when I have followed all the guidelines, why am I still being made a scapegoat?" He is of the opinion that "if someone doesn't agree with my vision, my way of making a film, they have a choice of not watching it. In a democratic country, please do not put a spoke in my freedom by targeting me and my team. One film cannot change history."

Bhandarkar is scared not only for himself - he is scared that his family is getting affected by what is happening and being shown on the television. "My wife, my daughter, my parents, all of them are afraid for my well being." It is here that he wants support- from the fraternity and from the public. "People should stand up and not take selective decision. It's not about me. It's about everybody," he says.