Archive for the ‘Open Letter’ Category

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Martin Luther King

Dear Board members at MAMI,

My name is Shazia Iqbal. I am the writer-director of a short film titled ‘Bebaak’. Our film was supposed to have its world premiere at the Mumbai Film Festival, this year. It is not going to anymore. The leadership at MAMI decided to drop the film.

Why? That is the answer you owe my team and me.

I was not given an official written statement from the board/committee members as to why my film was dropped. This, inspite of me repeatedly asking for the same:

A few more attempts on Whatsapp went unanswered. But this is what I did get:

I was then told by a member that this decision wasn’t fair to me but it was the final decision of the board. And that it was not meant to be a punishment or judgement.

I appreciate the empathy from Team MAMI but it changes nothing.

These are the questions I want to ask:

Then why was the film dropped? If it doesn’t serve as punishment or judgement?

Did you know the content of the film before dropping it? Or were we part of a surface clean-up?

I understand there are ‘collateral damages’ in a battle but my film is as feminist as this battle we are fighting; and if you’re shutting down a film that starts a conversation against misogyny and patriarchy, then what side of the battle are you on?

What side of the movement do you all belong to?

In any fight, you have to keep in mind the words ‘Justice’ and ‘Punishment’.

Justice: being fair and reasonable, treating people equally.

Punishment: the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offence.

I was told over a phone call that my film ‘Bebaak’ will be dropped from the festival program because one of the producers is Anurag Kashyap.

I was not told, but was supposed to understand, that since he is accused of “being complicit” in a sexual harassment case (one of the partners at Phantom, Vikas Bahl is accused of sexually assaulting a woman), our film has been disqualified.

Let me clarify that Anurag is one of my two producers. The other is Ajay Rai of Jar Pictures. And the film is independently produced by both.

Phantom Films (of which the directly accused, Vikas Bahl was part of) has nothing to do with us. There was no monetary or production involvement with the accused in any capacity.

This is an open legal case and I will say as much there already is in public domain (and also include some of my personal knowledge) that Anurag did all that he could at the time and unfortunately, yet it wasn’t enough to get the woman complete justice because she did not want to make a formal complaint. (Sorry, I don’t use the politically correct but demoralizing word ‘victim’.)

Anurag was a Board Member of your Academy.

He voluntarily stepped down from the Board to keep your reputation ‘clean’. Here is his tweet (where he also denies being complicit):

Here is another tweet where he denies being silent:

Here he mentions his responsibility to the women with whom he works with (I am one of them) and mentions that we have questioned them regarding the case (him and Vikram):

Anurag and Vikram clarified their side of the story, shared their dilemma and apologised.

But apparently none of this mattered.

You chose to believe a one-sided, article written by a so called ‘investigative journalist’ — Ankur Pathak — who kept many details out of the article because it did not suit the narrative of a story he wanted to tell; painting Anurag and Vikram as the wrongdoers, way more than the accused, Vikas Bahl himself!

And instead of standing up for the truth or even looking for it, you would rather go with the lynch mob mentality and a knee jerk reaction than look for a more nuanced solution to the situation.

I am the writer-director of the film. I have a female lead, and more than fifty percent of my main cast and crew are women. We have all become the “collateral damage” of a movement that is meant to empower women. I don’t fully understand law but I understand enough about equality and just treatment. You’re questioning the integrity of two men who are currently defending a woman in court/fighting an accused sexual predator and you’re taking action against them (and my team) based on an article.

Ankur Pathak is NOT the court of law. Isn’t this also a form of harassment?

Anurag and Vikram have apologized for not taking a harder stand, but at no point did they accept being complicit. I have been working with Phantom Films as a Production Designer (since early 2017), and I have never once seen Vikas Bahl, the accused in the company premises or on shoots.

In some personal conversations, Anurag spoke about Vikas and expressed his disgust with the man, said he wanted to take action against the man. I know of Shubhra (his girlfriend) being adamant about the same. He didn’t want his name on Mukkabaaz and later in other films but was bound by the contract. I am a witness to Anurag’s struggle, but since I am an ally, my testimony here doesn’t matter.

After the shoddy Huffpost article was published, Vikram stood amongst all the employees at Phantom Films and asked us to raise any doubts we had about the case. Without any hesitation, I and other women (and men) threw several questions at him regarding the case and each of those questions were answered. Convincingly.

Today he too stands punished. A film produced by him, directed by Atul Mongia has also been removed from your anthology slate. So now any film can be rejected or dropped on the basis of past association, whether the accused is involved or not?

Today Anurag and Vikram are being punished. As is everyone associated with them. Including their films; our films. Meanwhile, Vikas Bahl has slapped a defamation case against them.

Please don’t misconstrue this as personal agenda in support of friends/employers. I am merely stating the facts.

In the meantime, the rest of us have to suffer the wrath against one man. This is where I’m lost. Let’s look at this more objectively.

MAMI is a prestigious film festival. It is run and backed by some of the most powerful people in the industry. My film ‘Bebaak’ is just another short film. What we share in common is that we were both backed by Anurag Kashyap.

You asked me to drop Anurag’s name (because he insisted that ‘Films are bigger than individuals), I agreed. A feminist film getting a platform in the midst of the country’s biggest Me Too wave is a great deal; I revised my DCP, Trailer and Poster and had his name removed. (Poster attached)

Similarly, MAMI was also supported by Anurag as a Board member. He voluntarily stepped down. So now the short film is sans Anurag’s name and MAMI, the big film festival, doesn’t carry his name either. To apply your very fair analogy, if you still decided to drop my short film for my association with Anurag… shouldn’t you also dissolve the board itself for your association with Anurag?

Why don’t YOU take that moral responsibility and shut yourself down for previously being associated with those who YOU believe have been complicit?

Have you also done a check on your other Board members? Made sure they are not in association with any accused? Or not complicit?

Because as I see, there are at least two MAMI Board members who were in the know-how of an actress being harassed during audition by a director (already accused publicly). I was personally told by this actress that your Board members did nothing despite being from a big film family. (You can keep an independent inquiry panel and I will testify and name the board members. I assure you I would not have galls to say this if it wasn’t the truth.)

So does MAMI agree to dissolve its board to stand in solidarity with the movement since their own board members are complicit? Or is this only applicable to filmmakers?

Now let me explain the hypocrisy. These are the films MAMI has dropped:

  1. Satyanshu and Devanshu Singh’s Chintu ka Birthday.

    Producer: AIB (Tanmay Bhat accused of not taking action against accused Utsav Chakravorty, Gursimran Khamba accused by an ex-girlfriend of harassment.)

  2. Rajat Kapoor’s Kadakh. Director himself accused of assaulting a couple of women.
  3. Kanu Behl’s Binnu ka Sapna. Producer: Chintan Ruparel (of Terribly Tiny Tales, accused of harassing multiple women.)
  4. Atul Mongia’s Awake. Producer: Vikramaditya Motwane (partner at Phantom, accused of not taking any action against accused Vikas Bahl).
  5. My film Bebaak. Producer: Anurag Kashyap (partner at Phantom, accused of not taking any action against accused Vikas Bahl).

Each of these films has a different issue, yet every single cast and crew member of the above mentioned films have received the same verdict. Everyone’s film stands cancelled today.

When Hollywood started the Me Too movement and Kevin Spacey was found guilty of assaulting Anthony Rapp, years ago, Netflix replaced him in House of Cards. Only him. Spacey was also replaced in Ridley Scott’s All the money in the world. But the show/film wasn’t cancelled.

Please tell me which Filmmaker/Actor in Hollywood or any other film industry has been punished because they are guilty by association.

But I guess at MAMI, you want to take a very hard stand on this and punish everyone who is in a 100km radius of any accused. This must have required a very strong vetting process, I hoped. But that is not the case.

I am also guessing that the MAMI team aren’t fully aware of these films/incidents mentioned below: (though they are all the over internet and really hard to miss).

  1. Lars Von Trier’s The House That Jack Built. He is directly accused, not a complicit; one of the most powerful filmmakers to be outed during the Me Too movement last year. Singer-Actor Bjork accused him of sexual assault during filming of ‘Dancer in The Dark’.His partner — Peter Aalbæk Jensen — at his company, Zentropa (producers of The house that Jack built) is also accused of sexual misconduct.How does Lars’ film qualify to play?
  2. Beatriz Seigner’s Los Silencios. Anurag is credited as one of the producers on the film. Did you guys know? (Well… I did inform your team.)
    How is one of Anurag’s films still playing at the festival?
  3. Paul Schrader’s First Reform. Harvey Weinstein, a predator of the worst kind has been assaulting women for decades. In response, this is what Paul Schrader had to say in a Facebook post:Is MAMI comfortable playing a film by a maker who is more offended by the recutting of films, than sexual assault on women?Please remind me if any of my producers made such insensitive, vile statements about treating women as secondary to making films.

    Paul Schrader criticised for tone-deaf response to Weinstein allegations

    Hollywood writer-director Paul Schrader has been criticised for claiming he is more offended by film producer Harvey…
    http://www.independent.co.uk

    Also this:

    Paul Schrader’s Rape Comments Aren’t Helping Anyone

    Obviously there have been a lot of horrible takes on the subjects of consent and sexual assault due to the accusations…
    http://www.pajiba.com

  4. Nagraj Manjule’s An Essay of The Rain: The news came last year that Nagraj Manjule, the director of powerful films like Fandry and Sairat was accused by his wife of assaulting her physically, emotionally, verbally and she also gave details of how he kept her locked in the house while the family went to collect National Award for Manjule.But this qualifies at the festival?

    Exclusive: ‘Sairat’ Director’s Ex-Wife Tells Her Story of Abuse

    Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat not only gifted its director glowing reviews, but also crowned him as the maker of Marathi…
    http://www.thequint.com

  5. OXFAM.There is a GENDER EQUALITY award by Oxfam at MAMI.Is this the same Oxfam that was embroiled in major sexual misconduct since 2010? This is a huge one to skip.

    How Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal unfolded

    Allegations of sexual misconduct by Oxfam workers in 2011 have rocked the aid sector. Here’s how the scandal unfolded…
    news.sky.com

    Few things in the world would be as ironical as naming a gender parity award on a company accused of a major sex scandal.

    Minnie Driver: Oxfam bosses ‘knew what was going on and did nothing’

    Actor and activist who worked with the charity for 20 years stepped down to ‘send a message’ after Haiti sexual…
    http://www.theguardian.com

    26 new cases of sexual harassment and assault at Oxfam, committee hears

    Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, has said that his charity has received 26 new reports of sexual assault and…
    http://www.civilsociety.co.uk

Shouldn’t MAMI step down for getting into partnership with a company that has been informed of several sexual assaults but did nothing? Isn’t this a direct association?
(If this is untrue, I will apologise for it.)

And to end with, I also hope you have put the remaining 200 films screening at MAMI through a strict, vetting process. Because as I see and know of the industry, if every film is to be dropped because a cast or crew member is remotely in any association with an accused… no film will play here. I hope no one at MAMI is naïve to believe otherwise.

I say all of this at the risk of damaging my directorial career that hasn’t even started. I challenge you to dive deep into your conflicted conscience.

Because your own integrity stands questioned now.

My film is about a young woman who defies a religious authority when attacked with blatant misogyny. I was told that if the film is screened, its bigger purpose will be lost. I don’t agree. Keeping a gender equality film away from a social and political change makes no sense. It displays a lack of courage.

I am terribly sorry if I sound angry and hurt and broken. I am all of that.

It takes a lot to make even a short film. Writing, Directing, Designing, Casting, Recces, Auditions, Edit sessions, Subtitles, non stop late night Sound and DI sessions, Production. Managing budgets. Accounts. Constantly losing locations. Even a day before the shoot. Reshoots. Press kits. Catalogues. Trailer. Poster.

I kept shuffling between my short film and five Production design projects, last year. Working at an average of 20 hours a day for months.

It took me a year. One whole year! To make a 20 minutes short.

How much time did you guys take to drop the film?

I decided to make a short film because I couldn’t sell my feature film to any Studio. It had a female lead.

Female lead and female director is a risk. Aap lead ko change kar ke male kar do‘, said one of the Studio heads (they makes family entertainers).

Love the idea. Why don’t you give the script to us? We’ll develop it with another director.
So either the director or the lead had to be male.

But that wasn’t the case for a short.

But we were still making a religiously sensitive film in a deeply religious society. We were thrown from locations — Mosques and Tombs — because even when shoots are allowed in sanctimonious environments, Women aren’t.

While dealing with all the humiliation, I held myself and my team together and decided to put it all in my film. Because that’s what story tellers do. We don’t use our physical might, we use our words.

That struggle, that fight was a nightmare. But expected. This struggle, this fight – unexpected.

I thought of MAMI as female-driven connoisseurs of cinema. But for me now, there is no difference between that studio head who thinks women can’t direct, the men who threw us out from the mosque or the members at MAMI Board. Everyone is only concerned with their farce image.

We are a short film. Film festivals are our only hope. We don’t release in theatres.

We don’t have a chance at 40-crores weekends. All we want is to be seen, for our story to reach people.

Do you think my cast and crew of 80 people and I deserve this? As a feminist group, you have shut down a feminist voice even before it took off. This is so heart breaking for my entire team.

But I will not let this be my embarrassment. It is your embarrassment for treating films and filmmakers like disposable trash.

Do you also understand what does your ‘holier than thou’ decision do to us? You don’t think any festivals, will think twice before picking us up? And I know this letter kills our chance further, but I was not taught to be quiet when wronged.

I am a part of MAMI family. For years! I have written articles and reviews on films screened at MAMI. The day I was told our film was selected by MAMI, will remain special for me. Anurag and I were so happy about it. Home premiere! We can show the film to the people closest to us. Our industry friends, our colleagues, families.
Now we have nothing to tell anyone.

From the time the Me Too movement started in the west, I have felt a silent rage and calm within, at the same time. How badly was this needed! And what an artistic way it has come to finally fight the age old patriarchal, dehumanizing idea of treating women as mere sexual objects.

I say artistic because each woman gets a chance to tell her story. Openly. Fearlessly. How powerful is that?

As a survivor of child abuse, several sexual assaults and harassment at workplace, I find it really odd, discomforting, unfair and traumatizing to be at the receiving end of the most powerful feminist moment of our times.

This isn’t justice.

This is irrational, illogical, unjustifiable penance. How is this not harassment?

Sorry MAMI board members, you missed standing by the #MeToo movement by a mile.

I wait for a response.

Sincerely,

Shazia Iqbal (@shazarch)

On Medium

Varun Grover has been an integral part and regular contributor at MoiFightClub ever since this blog began. It was inevitable that all of us were shaken when allegations of sexual misconduct against him surfaced on Twitter through two handles who posted anonymous screenshots of stories of how he had harassed someone while she was allegedly a junior of his at BHU.

Ever since the allegations surfaced, there was frenzied activity from both sides – those who had decided that Varun was indeed guilty, and those who couldn’t believe he was. There is a third view as well, the nuanced one, that Varun should not be presumed innocent just because his friends believe him to be and every complaint should be taken seriously, even if anonymous, but he should be also heard and allowed a chance to put up arguments pointing to his innocence. After all isn’t that the basis of our judicial system?

A week has passed and we’re still on a stalemate on this case – Varun’s open questions to the two accounts who posted these screenshots remain unanswered and have been met with silence and resistance, and there seems to be no way to decide what to believe either way.

Varun posted this open letter a few hours ago on Medium to maybe share his state of mind, his point of view, and the state of affairs as they stand. We are reproducing the letter – in English and Hindi – here for all of you.

Revolutions are beautiful. They are cathartic, powerful, necessary, and like #metoo — inevitable.

And revolutions, inevitably, have some collateral damage too.

Last week has been a whirlwind of sorts in my life. Amidst the distress and confusion, I have discovered the kind solidarity of many strangers. I was at the receiving end of an anonymous allegation that I know and can prove to be false. In the macro perspective, the wave is bigger and way more important than my isolated small case. Centuries of patriarchy and oppression have created a system that cannot be taken down through polite means.

However, at the same time, my isolated small case does mean the world to me, my family and friends. It affects not just my mental health and professional life but my ability to take a social stand on every injustice I want to speak about.

And therefore, I feel this earnest need to present my side even though no formal complaint has been filed against me. This closure is needed to maintain my own sanity.

The allegations:

On 9th October 2018 at around noon, two screenshots sent by an anonymous account on twitter alleged that I had sexually harassed the person, a junior to me in college (IT-BHU, Varanasi) in 2001. Within minutes the screenshots went viral and within an hour, news channels framed me as a sexual assaulter bundled with other prominent names. It was hurtful and disappointing that the media did not even make the simple distinction while reporting this allegation and other cases. The charges were made by a single anonymous account in my case and multiple well-known women they could reach directly for comments in many of the other cases.

My stance:

I categorically deny the allegations in their entirety as completely baseless fabrications. I have never been involved in any such incident with anybody in my entire life.

The evidence of my innocence:

As stated in my initial statement, I will be readily available to face any independent inquiry to present the facts and help bring the truth out.

Until that happens, I can only present some new findings from my side that refute the allegations made.

A female junior in college in 2001:

a) I joined IT-BHU in July 1999 for a 4-year under-grad course in Civil Engineering. New batches arrive in July every year. So a junior to me in 2001 would mean two batches — 2000–2004 and 2001–2005.

As per official records, in the batch of 2000–2004, a total of 25 females joined the under-grad course and in the batch of 2001–2005, the total female strength was 11. That makes it a total of 36 female students that were my junior at that time.

Out of these 36, my theatre group worked with only four during the course of our stay at the institute and they have remained friends. As the news broke out, these four reached out to me and expressed their solidarity.

Extending their support further, these 4 women reached out to the rest 32 of the female students (spread across the globe) that were my junior at that time and have received confirmation from each one of them that such an incident did not happen. These confirmations can be verified by any independent inquiry.

This proves clearly that the person making the allegations on twitter did not even attend the same college as mine at the time of the incident stated in the allegation.

b) The same check can be done by any independent authority asking the person making the allegations to furnish any valid id card (Engineering completion degree from IT-BHU, semester mark-sheets, original college ID card) to see if they even went to IT-BHU in the batches of 2000–2004 or 2001–2005.

The deadlock:

I completely understand and support the need for anonymity in #metoo stories as our highly biased societal systems and male toxic behavior leave most women no space or platform to speak of their traumas openly or even in private.

No account should be stopped from being published because of its anonymity — but once fact-based counter-claims are made by the accused, the movement as a collective can perhaps make space for the intent to verify them. Further, if the allegations are found untrue, the movement can announce them to be considered removed or at the very least the account can be labeled as ‘pending verification’, till the contested claims are checked.

Over the last 5 days on social media — my requests for carrying out these basic checks have been met with silence, leaving me in a constant state of mental trauma and anguish.

Well-wishers have repeatedly suggested going the legal route to force a solution but I respect the movement, its volunteers, and all the brave women speaking out (openly or anonymously) immensely and won’t intend to affect it negatively. We all will be better allies if the closure is reached mutually.

I understand the excruciating lengths every volunteer and supporter of the movement is traversing to make this cathartic moment in our history happen. I also understand that men have, throughout history, paid very little price even when found guilty while women have constantly suffered even by the faintest of rumors made on their character. A few factually inconsistent cases like mine won’t matter in the larger success of the movement. I am just a number, an abstract concept for the world outside.

But I am not an abstract concept for myself — my family and friends, suffering with me, deserve clarification. We deserve the same fairness this movement stands for.

The resolution:

I’ve said all that I can on this situation and shared the facts that clearly refute the allegations made.

If someone still has any concerns, I urge them to reach out to National Commission for Women (NCW) or any independent commission and file a formal complaint. I will be grateful to present my case.

And one last thing:
Am I angry? Yes. Is my mental health in shambles? Yes. Do I occasionally feel like a victim of an agenda? Yes. And would I still say “Believe All Women”? Yes. But please bring in the checks to differentiate it from “Believe All Screenshots”.

Revolutions can be messy but they can’t be perceived as unjust.

Varun Grover (Mumbai, 15th October 2018)
(Same statement in Hindi follows)

(यही वक्तव्य हिंदी में)

सत्य के लिए आग्रह के साथ खुला ख़त

इंकलाब बहुत खूबसूरत होते हैं. मन का मैल धो देने वाले, शक्तिशाली, निहायत ज़रूरी और #मीटू अभियान की तरह अवश्यंभावी भी.

पर अवश्यंभावी रूप से इंकलाब अपने साथ कुछ अनचाही कुर्बानियाँ भी लाते हैं − कॉलेटरल डैमेज.

बीता हफ़्ता मेरी ज़िन्दगी में एक चक्रवात की तरह गुज़रा. उलझन और उदासी में डूबा. पर मैंने यह भी जाना कि कितने ही अजनबी एकजुटता में मेरे साथ आ खड़े हुए हैं. मेरे ऊपर एक ऐसा गुमनाम आरोप लगाया गया, जिसके बारे में मुझे पता है कि वो गलत है और बाकायदे मैं ये साबित कर सकता हूँ. अब अगर तस्वीर का फ्रेम बड़ा कर देखें तो #मीटू की इस क्रांतिधारा की ज़रूरत और महत्व मेरे अकेले के शहीद हो जाने से कहीं बड़ा है. आखिर सदियों की पितृसत्ता और शोषणचक्र को शिष्ट तरीकों से नहीं गिराया जा सकता.

लेकिन मेरी पूरी दुनिया इस आरोप से दहल गयी है. मैं, मेरे दोस्त, मेरा परिवार सकते में हैं. मेरी दिमाग़ी सेहत और पेशेवर कामकाज पर इसका सीधा असर है. इससे भी बुरा ये कि इसने मेरी नाइंसाफ़ी के खिलाफ़ खड़े होने की और सामाजिक न्याय की हर आवाज़ में अपना स्वर मिलाने की कुव्वत को मुझसे छीन लिया है.

इसलिए, भले मेरे ख़िलाफ़ कोई औपचारिक शिकायत दर्ज ना की गयी हो, फिर भी मेरी ईमानदार कोशिश है कि मैं अपना पक्ष रखूं. यह कोशिश खुद मेरे मन की शांति के लिए ज़रूरी है.

आरोप

9 अक्टूबर 2018 की दोपहर को ट्विटर पर किसी अनाम खाते से दो स्क्रीनशॉट्स डाले गए. इनमें आरोप था कि मैंने साल 2001 में इस इंसान, जो उस वक्त कॉलेज (आईटी-बीएचयू, वाराणसी) में मेरी जूनियर थीं, का यौन शोषण किया है. सोशल मीडिया पर कुछ ही पलों में ये स्क्रीनशॉट वायरल की तरह फैले और अगले ही घंटे मेरा नाम तमाम न्यूज़ चैनल्स पर था, अन्य तमाम बड़े नामों के साथ ‘यौन उत्पीड़क’ वाले खाते में. मीडिया ने इसे रिपोर्ट करते हुए सामान्य सावधानी भी नहीं बरती. जिस तरह मेरे केस को अन्य गंभीर मामलों के साथ एक ही खांचे में डाल दिया गया, यह बहुत तकलीफ़ पहुँचाने वाला और निराशाजनक था. मेरे केस में यह आरोप एक अकेले अनाम खाते द्वारा लगाए गए थे, जबकि अन्य कई मामलों में आरोप लगानेवाली अनेक जानी-मानी महिलाएं थी. ऐसी महिलाएं जिनसे ज़रूरत पड़ने पर मीडिया सीधा संपर्क कर सकता था आैर उनकी टिप्पणी ले सकता था.

मेरा पक्ष

मैं इस आरोप को सिरे से गलत, बनावटी और पूरी तरह आधारहीन बता रहा हूँ. पूरी ज़िन्दगी में मेरे साथ ऐसी कोई घटना नहीं हुई है. किसी के साथ नहीं, कभी नहीं.

मेरी बेगुनाही के सबूत

जैसा मैंने अपने शुरुआती बयान में भी कहा था, मैं किसी भी स्वतंत्र जाँच के समक्ष प्रस्तुत होने और अपने हिस्से के तथ्य रखने को तैयार हूँ, जिससे सच्चाई सबके सामने आ सके.

पर जब तक वो नहीं होता, मैं सिर्फ़ कुछ नए तथ्य आपके सामने रख सकता हूँ. उम्मीद करता हूँ कि इनसे मुझ पर लगाए गए आरोपों का खंडन हो सके.

कॉलेज में मेरी जूनियर, साल 2001

1) मैंने आईटी-बीएचयू में जुलाई 1999 में सिविल इंजीनियरिंग के चार साला स्नातक कोर्स में दाख़िला लिया था. नया बैच वहाँ हर साल जुलाई में ही आता है. इस हिसाब से 2001 में मेरी यह अनाम जूनियर या तो 2000–2004 बैच से हो सकती है, या 2001–2005 बैच से.

अधिकृत दस्तावेज़ों के आधार पर, 2000–2004 के स्नातक बैच में कुल 25 लड़कियों ने दाख़िला लिया था, जबकि 2001–2005 के बैच के लिए यही संख्या 11 थी. इस तरह यही 36 लड़कियाँ ठहरती हैं जो कथित घटना के समय मेरी जूनियर थीं.

इन 36 लड़कियों में से सिर्फ़ 4 थीं, जिनके साथ संस्थान में रहने के दौरान हमारे थियेटर समूह ने काम किया. हमारी ये दोस्ती बाद में भी कायम रही. जब मेरे बारे में आरोप की यह खबर इन चारों तक पहुँची, तो चारों ने मुझसे सम्पर्क किया और मेरे साथ अपनी एकजुटता जाहिर की.

इसी एकजुटता के चलते इन चारों ने दुनियाभर में फैली अपनी बाक़ी 32 स्त्री सहपाठियों से सम्पर्क किया. घटना के समय मेरी जूनियर रही एक-एक लड़की से बात कर इस बात की पुष्टि हासिल की, कि ऐसी कोई घटना कभी हुई ही नहीं. किसी भी स्वतंत्र जाँच में इस बात को वापस सत्यापित किया जा सकता है.

स्पष्ट है कि ट्विटर पर इन आरोपों को लगानेवाला व्यक्ति आरोप में उल्लेखित घटना के समय मेरे संस्थान का छात्र ही नहीं था.

2) यही बात जाँचने का एक सीधा तरीका भी है. किसी भी स्वायत्त अधिकारी द्वारा इस व्यक्ति से ऐसा कोई भी पहचान पत्र (आईटी-बीएचयू से इंजिनियरिंग की डिग्री, किसी भी सेमेस्टर की अंक तालिका या कॉलेज का मूल पहचान पत्र) दिखाने को कहा जाये जो साबित कर सके कि इन्होंने 2000–2004 या 2001–2005 में से किसी बैच में आईटी-बीएचयू में पढ़ाई की है.

बात कहाँ अटकी है

मैं इस बात को समझता हूँ कि इन #मीटू की कहानियों के सामने आने के लिए गुमनाम रहकर अपनी आपबीती को अभिव्यक्त करने का रास्ता ज़रूरी है. मैं आज भी इसके साथ खड़ा हूँ. हमारा पितृसत्तात्मक, पुरुषों के ज़हरीले व्यवहार में गले तक डूबा सामाजिक ढांचा स्त्रियों के लिए कोई और मंच या जगह छोड़ता भी कहाँ है अपने दर्द को बयाँ करने के लिए. ना घर उनका, ना समाज.

किसी भी आपबीती को इसलिए रौशनी में आने से नहीं रोका जा सकता कि उसे बयाँ करनेवाली अभी अपना नाम अंधेरे में रखना चाहती है. लेकिन जब आरोपित व्यक्ति तथ्यों के आधार पर उसकी बात को गलत साबित करे, तो खुद आन्दोलन को आगे बढ़कर तथ्यों की पुष्टि का कोई तरीका निकालना चाहिए. इससे आगे, अगर आरोप गलत पाये जायें तो कम से कम इसकी तो घोषणा की जाये कि इस इंसान का नाम ‘दाग़ियों’ की सूची से हटाया जाता है. या किसी एक की बात साबित होने तक उसके आरोप के साथ ‘पुष्टि नहीं’ ही जोड़ दिया जाये.

बीते 5 दिन से मैं सोशल मीडिया पर यही विनती कर रहा हूँ कि कम से कम आरोप में शामिल इन प्राथमिक तथ्यों की सत्यता तो जाँच ली जाये − लेकिन मेरी बात को अनसुना किया जाता रहा. इस चुप्पी के चलते मैं कैसी मानसिक यंत्रणा से गुज़रा, मैं ही जानता हूँ.

मेरे शुभचिंतक लगातार सलाह देते रहे कि मुझे समाधान के लिए कानूनी रास्ता अपनाना चाहिए, लेकिन मैं इस अभियान का और इसके सिपाहियों का सम्मान करता हूँ. मैं उन तमाम महिलाओं का तहेदिल से सम्मान करता हूँ जो आवाज़ उठा रही हैं (भले सामने आकर या अंधेरे में रहकर) और नहीं चाहता कि मेरी वजह से अभियान पर ज़रा सी भी आँच आए. हमारा एका और बढ़ेगा अगर हम साथ मिलकर किसी समाधान तक पहुँचेंगे.

मैं जानता हूँ कि इस अभियान का प्रत्येक सिपाही और समर्थक हमारे इतिहास में आयी इस आत्मसाक्षात्कार की घड़ी को संभव बनाने के लिए कैसे जी-जान से जुटा है. मैं यह भी जानता हूँ कि पुरुषों ने अपराधी साबित होने पर भी कभी कुछ नहीं खोया, जबकि इतिहास गवाह है कि स्त्री के चरित्र पर अफ़वाह भी हमेशा के लिए दाग़ लगा जाती है.

नहीं, मेरे जैसे कुछ तथ्य से परे मामले इस अभियान की वृहत्तर सफ़लता को रोकनेवाले नहीं हो सकते. मैं एक संख्या भर हूँ. दुनिया के लिए अमूर्त विचार भर. लेकिन मैं खुद के लिए तो अमूर्त संकल्पना भर नहीं. मैं, मेरे परिवार वाले और दोस्त मेरे साथ यह नर्क भुगत रहे हैं. क्या उनका एक स्पष्टीकरण जितना भी हक़ नहीं बनता. न्याय के इस अभियान का न्याय हमें छल नहीं सकता.

समाधान

इस परिस्थिति में मैं जो कुछ कह सकता हूँ, जो भी तथ्य अपनी ओर से सामने रख सकता हूँ, रख रहा हूँ. ऐसे तथ्य जो साफ़तौर पर आरोपों को गलत साबित करते हैं.

मेरा निवेदन है कि अगर अब भी किसी के मन में शक है, तो वह ‘राष्ट्रीय महिला आयोग’ (NCW) या किसी भी अन्य स्वतंत्र जाँचकर्ता समिति में औपचारिक शिकायत करे. मैं खुशी-खुशी अपना पक्ष रखूँगा.

और आखिर में

क्या मैं गुस्सा हूँ? क्या मेरी दिमाग़ी शांति चली गयी है? क्या मुझे रह-रहकर ये लगता है कि मुझे किसी योजना के तहत फंसाया गया? इन सभी सवालों का जवाब ‘हाँ’ है. पर आज भी मुझसे पूछा जाये कि क्या मैं “हर स्त्री पर भरोसा करो” का नारा लगाउंगा? तो मेरा जवाब आज भी ‘हाँ’ होगा. लेकिन यह नारा “हर स्क्रीनशॉट पर भरोसा करो” में ना बदल जाये, इसके लिए हमें जवाबदेही तय करनी ही होगी.

~ वरुण ग्रोवर

dibakarभारत के मां, बाप, बेटे, बेटियों, शिक्षकों, छात्रों को एक खुली चिट्ठी

जिस स्कूल में मैं नर्सरी से 12वीं तक पढ़ा हूँ उसके कार्यवाहक व पृष्ठपोषक वह थे जिन्हें अाज राइट विंग, हिन्दु्त्ववादी या अाम भाषा में “संघी” कहा जायेगा. स्कूल की शिक्षाव्यवस्था का सनातन हिंदू संस्कृति से रिश्ता बहुत गहरा था. हमें हिंदी और संस्कृत काफ़ी ज़ोर देकर पढ़ाई गई.

स्कूल के वार्षिकोत्सव का अारम्भ गुरुवन्दना से होकर वादविवाद, सितार, गिटार-वादन, नुक्कड़-नाटक,संस्कृत काव्य पाठ, क़व्वाली और मुशायरा से गुज़र कर सरस्वती वंदना से समापन होता था. हमें सिखाया जाता था कि भारत दुनिया के उन महान समाजों में से है जिसमें सभी के लिए जगह है. पांचवी क्लास में ही मुझे ‘वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्’ का अर्थ ज्ञात था हमारे कड़क और एक किलो वज़नी थप्पड़ वाले संस्कृत सर की बदौलत. छठी क्लास तक मैंने गणित, भौतिकी, रसायन विज्ञान और जीव विज्ञान हिन्दी में पढ़ा. हमारे सोंधी खुशबू वाली स्कूल डायरी में गायत्री मंत्र, संस्कृत काव्य और गीता के चुने हुए हिस्से थे जो मुझे आज भी कंठस्थ हैं. इसके साथ-साथ हम वही इतिहास पढ़ते थे जिसे अब ‘लेफ़्टिस्ट’, ‘एलीटिस्ट’ और ‘स्युडो-सेक्युलर’ कहा जाने लगा है – जो भी उसका अर्थ हो. उसका कुछ कुछ अभी भी सच सा लगता है, और कुछ नहीं.

अंग्रेज़ी के वर्चस्व के इस ज़माने में आज भी हिंदी, संस्कृत और प्राचीन भारत पर मेरा (अधूरा) दखल देखकर मेरे दोस्तबाग इम्प्रेस हो जाते हैं। मैं अपने स्कूल का जितना भी शुक्रिया अदा करूँ कम होगा, जिसने तीन हजार सालों के मानव इतिहास को सहजता से समझने की योग्यता मुझे दी, साथ ही वक़्त के साथ चलना भी सिखाया. मैं जो भी हूँ, अपने उस स्कूल की वजह से हूँ. इसका गर्व है मुझे.

मुझे अाज तक कभी भी ऐसा नहीं लगा कि मेरे स्कूल की शिक्षा ग़लत है. एक बार भी हमें ये नहीं पढ़ाया गया कि भारत से प्यार करने के लिए किसी से से नफ़रत करने की ज़रूरत है. इसका गर्व है मुझे.

मेरे जैसे अनगिनत भारतीय अाज भारत के नागरिक हैं – जिन्हें अपने स्कूल या कालेज पे गर्व है.

भारत के अभिभावक, शिक्षक और छात्रगण, अब समय अा गया है एक निर्णय का – कि जिस दिन हमारे बच्चे पढ़ाई पूरी करके भविष्य के भारत में क़दम रखें तो उन्हें अपने स्कूल पे फ़ख्र होगा तो किस बात का होगा? कितना बड़ा प्लेग्राउन्ड या वी अाइ पी पार्किंग है उसकी? या कितने लाख की फीस है? या किस फिल्मस्टार का बेटा क्लासमेट है? या किस नेता का जिगरी चेयरमैन है?

या फिर अपने शिक्षकों का? हमारे संस्कृत सर, हमारी अंग्रेज़ी मैम, मेरे प्रिंसिपल सर और वो सभी शिक्षक जिनका हमने आदर किया, जिनसे डरे, जिन पर हम फ़िदा हुए, जिनके हम दीवाने रहे, जिनकी हमने पीठ पीछे नकल उतारी और जिन्होंने हमारे कान खींचे. इन शिक्षकों ने हमें केवल विद्या नहीं, जुनून भी दिया. सिर्फ पांच स्टेप्स मेँ सेट थियरी पैराडाॅक्स साबित करने का, या बिना सांस लिये एक मिनट तक रावण के शिवस्तोत्र की अावृत्ति का. मैं जिस प्रोफ़ेशनल इंस्टीट्यूट में गया वहाँ के पेड़ के नीचे बैठकर शिक्षकों ने हमें जुनून दिया छोटे भारतीय शहरों के लिए सस्ता और सेफ रिक्शा बनाने का, या सर्व भारतीय लोटे के अनूठे आकार पर फिदा होने का. हमे एक बार भी ये भनक न पड़ी हम राइट हैं या ले्फ्ट! मास हैँ या एलीटिस्ट!

कभी ऐसा नहीं लगा कि महान कुछ हो रहा है – कभी किसी शिक्षक ने हमें भारत से प्यार करने, देशभक्त बनने या देश की रक्षा करने के लिए नहीं कहा. लेकिन अब मालूम पड़ता है कि जब उन्होंने हमें ब्रह्मगुप्त के चतुर्भुज समीकरण, दिनकर की कविता, रस्किन बॉण्ड और मंटो की कहानियां, भारतीय मलमल की बारीक़ी, बंगाल के टेराकोटा टाइल की सुंदरता या लद्दाख में विश्व की सबसे ऊंची हवाई पट्टी के बारे में बताया और साहिर के फिल्मी गाने गाये, उन्होंने हमारे दिल में चुपके से हमें बताए बिना देशप्रेम की वह तीली लगा दी जो आज भी सुलग रही है.

उस अगन का सबूत नम्बर एक? करोड़ों भारतीय, जो अाज भी भारत में हर नाइन्साफी, मजबूरी, तकलीफ से जूझते हुऐ यहीं जी रहे हैं और जम के जी रहे हैं. सबूत नम्बर दो? वह लाखों भारतीय जो भारत के बाहर भारत के लिये तरसते हुए अपने केबल वाले से देसी चैनल के देने के मुद्दे पे रोज़ झगड़ते हैं!

भारत की शिक्षा अपने अाप में एक सीख है। हजारों वर्षों से भारत में अध्ययन-अध्यापन की बेजोड़ परंपरा रही है. इस परंपरा का केंद्र गुरु और शिष्य हैं. ये यूँ ही नहीं है कि द्रोण, कृप, कपिल, बुद्ध, महावीर, शंकर और नानक आज भी पौराणिक कथाओं और धर्मग्रंथों में हमारे बीच जीते हैं. ये अाखिरकार कुछ भी हों, सबसे पहले ये शिक्षक ही थे जिन्होंने शिष्यों के एक विशाल समूह को प्रेरित किया.

हमारे बचपन के शिक्षक हमें दूसरे भारतीयों के साथ भारत में रहना सिखाते थे। वह दूसरे भारतीय भी ऐसे स्कूल-कॉलेजों से पढ़कर आए थे जहाँ सहजता से निभाई जाने वाली भारतीयता सिखाई गई थी. हम रूड़की से पढ़कर पास होते और चेन्नई में काम करने जाते थे। पंजाबियों से भरी दिल्ली में रह रहे बंगाली लड़के का बेस्टफ्रेंड एक गुजराती लड़का बन जाता था. किसी ऐसे राज्य में जहां कभी नहीं गए वहां के इंजीनियरिंग कॉलेज में भर्ती होने से पहले हम एकबार भी नहीं सोचते थे. कोइ ऐसा हाॅस्टल जहां एक समुदाय गिनती में भारी हो हमे कभी इतना त्रास न देता था जितना अब देता है। क्या बदल गया फिर?

आज बहुत सारे कारनामे हो रहे हैं जिनको सही ठहराने के लिए हमारी प्राचीन परंपरा का उल्लेख किया जाता है.अगर हम केवल शिक्षापरंपरा का उल्लेख करें तो तर्क, युक्ति, सवाल जवाब, डिबेट – इनके बिना वह परंपरा गूंगी गुड़िया रह जाती है जिसके साथ केवल खेल खेला जाता हो। भारत का सबसे पुराना सिलेबस है – वाद और विवाद। भारत की सबसे पुरानी “कोर्सबुक” वेद के सबसे जियाले, रोंगटे खड़े कर देने वाले श्लोक – वह बस सवाल हैं और कुछ नहीं! उपनिषद्, दर्शन, मीमांसा – कहीं भी देखें – वे गुरु और शिष्य के बीच प्रश्नोत्तर के रूप में किए गए संवाद हैं.

सही शिक्षक हमें सही राह दिखाता है. सही रास्ता वही दिखा सकता है जिसे खुद सही रास्ता दिखता हो. विश्व का सबसे प्रतिभाशाली चित्रकार व्याकरण सिखाने में अव्वल फेल होगा! और देशप्रेम का पाठ फिल्ममेकिंग या गणित पढ़ाते हुए बखूबी पढ़ाया जा सकता है, बशर्ते उस गुरू को फिल्म मेकिंग या गणित से प्रेम हो! . इसके लिए देशभक्ति के अलग सिलेबस की जरूरत नहीं है। क्योंकि ये सिलेबस अक्सर वही लोग बनाते हैं जिन्हे अपना उल्लू सीधा करने कि लिये अापके मासूम बच्चे की दरकार है बतौर रिक्रूट।

भारत के अभिभावकों और छात्रों, हमें दिखाने की जरूरत है कि हम अपने देश से उन लोगों के मुक़ाबले ज़्यादा प्यार करते हैं जो देशप्रेम की लवस्टोरी मैं अकेले हीरो बन रहे हैं.

जिस भारत से हम प्यार करते हैं वह मस्त, मुस्कुराता, रंग-बिरंगा, अच्छे खाने की खुशबू से महकता, अच्छे संगीत में झूमता, शरारती लेकिन होशियार बच्चों से भरे क्लासरूम वाला भारत है। उस क्लासरूम में जहां हमारी सिखणी मां और हमारे खोजा पापा पहली बार मिले थे! वो होस्टल जहां नवरात्रा के डान्डिया रास के बाद हम सारी रातजागकर पढते थे! क्या करते – सिलेबस ही इतना प्यारा था!

जिस भारत से हम प्यार करते हैं वह ऐसे शिक्षकों का देश है जो तार तार माहवार पर मीलों चलकर बच्चों को वर्णमाला सिखाते हैं, या नौजवानों को खराद मशीन चलाना या होनहार बच्चियों को पहाड़ लांघना.

जिस भारत से हम प्यार करते हैं वह ऐसे शिक्षकों, शिक्षाविदों, लेखकों, कवियों और गायकों का है जिन्होंने अपनी किताबों, गीतों, कहानियों और कविताओं के जरिए भारतीय छात्रों को दुनिया के हर कोने में पहचान दिलाई है. ये पहचान हम खो बैठे तो हमें कोई नहीं पूछेगा!

जिस भारत से हम प्यार करते हैं वह ऐसे बहुत से संस्थानों से भरा है जो छात्रों को देशप्रेम का दावा करना सिखाए बिना, उन्हें बैंकिग, जेनेटिक रिसर्च, फैशन डिज़ाइन, सांख्यिकी में अव्वल बनाते हैं और वह छात्र देश का नाम रौशन करते हैं।

जिस भारत से हम प्यार करते हैं, उसके अभिभावकों और छात्रों को अधिकार है कि वे खुद निर्णय लैं वे क्या सिलेबस सीखना चाहते हैं और कैसे. यदि कोई ऐसा कॉलेज या स्कूल हो जहां वे जा सकें, इसका मतलब है कि हमारी सारी ग़लतियों, तनावों, गरीबी और असमानता के बावजूद हम सही रास्ते पर हैं.

अाज डर ये है कि हम ये अधिकार खो देंगे. भारत के अभिभावकों और छात्रों, मैं आपसे कहता हूँ कि आप अपनी चुप्पी तोड़ें और बोलना शुरू करें। क्योंकि जब अरसे से चुप बैठा कोई बोलता है तो दुनिया सुनती है.

– दिबाकर बैनर्जी

(click on any pic to start the slide show)

(Disclaimer – This is an expression of an individual student and in no way is representation of FTII’s official position)

Dear Mr Chauhan,

I am choosing to address you personally after listening to you respond on several TV news debates about the recent opposition against your appointment as Chairman at FTII. I am a student of FTII and part of the protest.

When we first heard about your appointment we knew little about you except those of us who had grown up on ‘Mahabharata’ the B.R. Chopra serial. We then began to look for more information to get to know your background and work profile. When we did, we saw a huge anomaly in your body of work and the very principles and aesthetic, FTII stands for. We began to smell a rat. Given your political affiliations and given the fact that the ruling party is becoming notorious for making completely irrational and high-handed appointments since it has come to power, it was clear to us you were meant to be a puppet of the Government and chosen despite your capabilities and inspite of your body of work. The protest wasn’t against you personally, coz we never knew you or about you. You, as we saw, are unfit for the job (reasons below) but more important than that this is a strike against the increasing interference of the ruling party to drive their agenda throughout the country without considering the principles of democracies and those of the said institutions. I think, this may satisfy the ‘surprise’ you felt when you heard about the protest before even you joining. This protest was not about you, Mr Chauhan as an individual. This may also satisfy a certain insecurity you may have, going by your own admission of you being a ‘chhota aadmi’, of depriving you of your chance to shine and become ‘big’. (Given your political affiliations I am sure you will receive a much better post, as you again by your admission iterated, that, ‘If you had to use your political power than why FTII, why not a big and more important post?’ I hope you see the contradictions here, Mr Chauhan. First you say give me a chance to progress, then you imply FTII isn’t that important a place to progress with. Strange.)

Now it is comments like these that compel me to write this letter. Because, now that we have heard you speak, we know you better and now that we know you we are dead sure you are wrong for this post. Before I tell you why you are wrong, let me educate you a bit about FTII and what this institution means to cinema as well. On the way you may learn something about cinema too, because as you may not be aware, ‘Khuli Khidki’ isn’t exactly cinema.

What FTII stands for –

  • Freedom of thought – We are allowed, encouraged and groomed to think independently to understand the world around us and our own art without any agendas, something I don’t see many institutions that can boast of. We are also taught to respect each other’s opinions as artists. Do you see yourself being able to encourage that?
  • Freedom of speech – We are allowed, encouraged and groomed to express our independent opinions without fear of repercussions, disturbing the status quo or upsetting power equations. This, you may not know, is a very important constitutional right of every citizen of India and the cornerstone of democracy which the ruling party you are associated with is trying to systematically euthanize.
  • Individuality and unbridled self-expression – FTII grooms students as individual artists above their technical domain, constantly keeping in mind that it is the person who creates and not technology. We are pushed to develop and express ourselves through our art for constant evolution irrespective of our specialisations. Having said that, FTII produces the best technical experts the industry has, on a yearly basis too.
  • Justice and fairness in all areas to all sections of society based on the philosophical principles of the Socialist Democracy we are. FTII has always stood for equality and justice for all irrespective of class, creed or gender and this has shown in the films it produces. Cinema, you see, is a wonderful tool of mass communication and if it can be used for propagating ideas of equality and justice, then why not?! These ideas don’t go down very well with your political party unfortunately and that is worrisome for us.
  • Only film institute in India to have a global perspective on cinema as a pure aesthetic medium without any mercenary considerations. It is an art form and it is upheld as one here, without compromises. Cinema here is taught from the lessons and learnings of world greats by people who understand it as an art-form, to students who want to become artists not assembly line film-makers. This requires a certain bent of mind and commitment to cinematic arts. Do you think you have it?
  • The only film institute in India that considers cinema as a vehicle as much of self-expression as much as a mirror to the society we live in. Cinema, for us, cannot be divorced from a personal voice and the socio-political context within which we live. Cinema, for us is about comment and expression not distribution and titillation. Do you understand this distinction?

Now you may say, you will uphold all these principles. Fine, we may consider your earnestness to get your ‘chance’ but what about the fact that one must understand these principles to execute them? Your body of work and now more importantly, your responses, clearly show you don’t. If you still don’t get it, let me tell you why you are wrong for this post –

  • You have no connection whatsoever with FTII to understand this space. You are not an alumnus nor have you worked or associated professionally with students or artists from here. I doubt you have even visited this place ever. You may say you will learn on the job, but Sir we aren’t talking about hiring an intern. YOU are supposed to be guiding US, deciding our future. Without knowing what this place is all about, how will you?
  • You have nothing in your body of work that shows any kind of affiliation to the philosophy or aesthetics of cinema we practice here. If you haven’t studied or practiced then you don’t understand, you see. Then how will you show us the way ahead? How will you approve, disapprove and draft policies, make decisions, appoint people to take our learning forward in the way it should be done?
  • You have nothing else in your body of work to show any kind of inclination to arts and aesthetics, or an intellectual or questioning bent of mind. This especially, is disastrous for both of us. You may not know, but the key ingredient in learning and teaching, especially of arts and aesthetics is a constantly questioning mind.
  • And because of these three points above, your political affiliation troubles us a lot. Because a fourth standard student can see why you are not fit for this post but the Government of India has handed it to you on a platter. Hence, even if you are sincere this very lack of understanding can easily make you a pawn in the hands of the Govt to push their decisions on to the institution. In that case, for your own peace of mind and job security with your bosses I think this could be unhealthy for you. Why would you want a job where you can’t prove your own mettle as you so badly seem to want to do? Please seriously re-consider and withdraw.
  • If we talk of pure heritage, the post of the Chairman has been held by the following – (Please google them if you don’t know of them and you will know more about why you are wrong for this place.)

Adoor Gopalkrishnan – Director, writer and producer, FTII alumnus and 16 National Awards, Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan and Dadasaheb Phalke awardee. (The last, you may not know, is the highest honour conferred in the field of cinema.) If awards don’t cut it for you, it doesn’t for some of us either, then maybe the fact that he started the ‘New Cinema’ movement in Kerala that synthesized the mainstream and so-called art cinema for a wider appreciation of cinema as an artform.

Shyam Benegal – Director, writer, faculty at FTII before he became the Chairman twice. 12 National Awards, Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan and the Dadasaheb Phalke Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. His films have been nominated at Cannes, Berlin and Moscow in competition sections. But more importantly he was a huge influence and constituent of the parallel cinema movement in India which changed the shape of cinema forever.

Girish Karnad – Actor, director, writer, playwright, recipient of 9 National Awards, Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, Sahitya Akademi and Janpeeth Award (highest literary honour of India). He marked the blooming and maturing of Kannada literature in the sixties.

U.R.Ananthamurthy – Novelist, playwright, poet and literary critic, Padma Bhushan, Sahitya Akademi, Jnanpeeth awardee. Finalist of the Man Booker prize. He had no association with cinema and we protested his appointment too despite holding his body of work and the power of his intellect in high regard.

Saeed Mirza – Director, writer, novelist, producer, FTII alumnus, 3 National Awards winner and a very important film-maker whose films gave impetus and shape to the parallel cinema movement of the 70’s.

And now some GK about FTII in the last decade, actually just last two years is enough. I wouldn’t have taken the pain but I read you mention somewhere that Rajkumar Hirani was the last film-maker of reckoning FTII produced. Not so long ago, in 2009, ‘Vihir‘, a terrific Marathi film was chosen at Berlin in the competition section and it was made by an FTII alumnus. Last year, in 2014,‘Killa’, a Marathi film has won the Crystal Bear at Berlin. And you know, the director was a cinematography student here, by the way. He also shot ‘Masaan’ which won two awards at Cannes this year. Yes, two. And to talk mainstream, he has also shot the soon-to-release Ajay Devgan starrer ‘Drishyam’, and this guy is hardly in his early thirties. Another film in competition this year at Cannes was ‘Chauthi Kooth’, made by another FTII alumnus. For God’s sake our diploma films have been selected in competition at Berlin this year, ‘Kamakshi’ being a case in point. Oh by the way, ‘Chitrashala’, another short film selected at Berlin this year is made by Amit Dutta, an FTII alumnus again, and an avant-garde and important film-maker of our times.

(If you can, please note how your reference points are so mainstream that you are not even aware of the wonderful and important work FTII alumni have been doing and which have even made recent headlines.)

I can go on, Sir. But I think I have explained myself in so much detail that you must have got the point. And in case you didn’t, it proves once again why you just aren’t right for this post. Apologies but we can do little about that except protest until you step down.

Thank you

Most Sincerely

An FTII student

In Solidarity With The Actor

Posted: September 5, 2014 by moifightclub in Open Letter

We have been greatly disturbed by the harsh reporting on a former child actor’s alleged involvement in a prostitution racket.

All of us know how difficult it is for young child actors trying to find a foothold in this industry as adults. We urge the media to refrain from treating her life as gossip for their viewers/readers.

We also request the film fraternity to empathise rather than judge or label her. Somewhere, we are all accountable for the disillusionment of one so young.

All of us stand in complete solidarity with this fine National-award winning actor of immeasurable talent.

Signed
Vishal Bharadwaj
Karan Johar
Imtiaz Ali
Abhishek Kapoor
Rensil D’Silva
Amole Gupte
Honey Trehan
Nandini Shrikent
Preety Ali
Aarti Bajaj
Namrata Rao
Deepa Bhatia
Amrita Puri
Abhishek Chaubey
Makarand Deshpande
Shreyas Talpade
Abbas Tyrewala
Elahe Hiptoola
Akiv Ali
Dipa De Motwane
Hitesh Sonik
Nupur Asthana
Vishal Dadlani
Soumik Sen
Mahendra Soni
Sneha Rajani
Luv Ranjan

NaM0

With the NaMo-mania hitting the roof (see pic, via @psemophile), Bollywood has done something which it has never done before – Taken a political stand. Some 60 film personalities which includes many well-known directors, actors, screenwriters, editors, producers and lyricists have come together to make an appeal to the voters. Though it doesn’t spell out the NaMo-word but it’s quite evident what they are saying. Do read.

APPEAL TO INDIAN VOTERS

Dear Fellow-Indians,

The best thing about our country is its cultural diversity, its pluralism – the co-existence of a number of religions and ethnicities over centuries, and hence the blooming of multiple streams of intellectual and artistic thought. And, this has been possible only because Indian society has prided itself on being essentially secular in character, rejecting communal hatred, embracing tolerance.

Today, that very sense of India is vulnerable. The need of the hour is to protect our country’s secular foundation. Undoubtedly, corruption and governance are important issues, but we will have to vigilantly work out ways of holding our government accountable to that. However, one thing is clear: India’s secular character is not negotiable! Not now, not ever.

As Indian citizens who love our motherland, we appeal to you to vote for the secular party, which is most likely to win in your constituency.

Jai Hind!

 

Yours

Imtiaz Ali (Writer-Director: Highway, Jab We Met)

Vishal Bhardwaj (Writer-Director: Omkara, Maqbool)

Govind Nihalani (Director: Tamas, Ardh Satya)

Saeed Mirza (Director: Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai)

Zoya Akhtar (Writer-Director: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara)

Anand Patwardhan (Documentary Film-maker: Jai Bhim Comrade)

Vijay Krishna Acharya ‘Victor’ (Director: Dhoom 3)

Kabir Khan (Director: Ek Tha Tiger)

Kundan Shah (Director: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro)

Nandita Das (Director-Actress: Firaaq, Fire)

Hansal Mehta (Director: Shahid)

Anjum Rajabali (Writer: Raajneeti, Satyagraha)

Akshat Verma (Writer: Delhi Belly)

Shubha Mudgal (Singer-Musician)

Anusha Rizvi (Filmmaker: Peepli Live)

Swara Bhaskar (Actor: Raanjhana, Tanu Weds Manu)

Aditi Rao Hydari (Actor: Murder 3, Rockstar)

Pubali Chaudhuri (Writer: Kai Po Che, Rock On!!)

Mahesh Bhatt (Director-Producer: Saaraansh, Jannat)

Anil Mehta (Cinematographer: Lagaan, Jab Tak Hai Jaan)

Saket Chaudhary (Writer-Director: Shaadi Ke Side Effects)

Rakesh Sharma (Documentary Film-maker: Final Solution)

Vinay Shukla (Writer-Director: Godmother)

Robin Bhatt (Writer: Chennai Express, Krish 3)

Aneesh Pradhan (Tabla Maestro)

Sanjay Chhel (Writer: Rangeela, Yes Boss)

Sameer Anjan (Lyricist: Dhoom 3, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai)

Imteyaz Husain (Writer: Parinda)

Rajesh Dubey (TV Writer: Balika Vadhu)

Vinod Ranganath (TV Writer: Shanti, Swaabhiman)

Jalees Sherwani (Lyricist: Dabang)

Danish Javed (Lyricist and Poet)

Amitabh Shukla (Film Editor: Chak De India)

Sukant Panigrahi (Art Director)

Surabhi Sharma (Documentary Film-maker)

Anusha Khan (Producer)

Bishwadeep Chatterjee (Sound Designer: 3 Idiots)

C.K. Muraleedharan (Cinematographer: 3 Idiots)

Dr. Manasee Palshikar (Screenwriter-Teacher)

Jyoti Dogra (Actor)

Joy Sengupta (Actor)

Kauser Munir (Lyricist: Dhoom 3)

Mazahir Rahim (Screenwriter)

Nishant Radhakrishnan (Film Editor: Satyamev Jayate)

Preety Ali (Producer)

Priyanka Borpujari (Screenwriter)

Rajashree (Writer-Filmmaker)

Manjushree Abhinav (Novelist-Filmmaker)

Prayas Abhinav (Artist-Teacher)

Ruchika Oberoi (Film-maker)

Rukmini Sen (Screenwriter and TV Journalist)

Sameera Iyengar (Theatre activist)

Sharad Tripathi (Screenwriter)

Shivani Tibrewala Chand (Playwright)

Simantini Dhuru (Filmmaker-Activist)

Sona Jain (Film-maker)

Tushar Gandhi (Activist)

Teesta Setalvaad (Activist)

Javed Anand (Activist)

Today morning, we were discussing reviews versus blogs. It started with a personal and candid post (Dad, We’re In Nebraska) by Rahul Desai. If you have seen Nebraska, do read it. It’s a strange feeling when you can identify your life with a film. And sometimes, it’s liberating in more ways than one. Today evening, we received another personal piece by @kuhukuro. This one is about Highway. An honest, brave, and candid open letter to the filmmaker whose film had an impact on her as it mirrors her life. Do read.

 Alia-Bhatt-and-Imtiaz-Ali-on-location-shooting-for-Highway-in-Punjab28.03.2013

Dear Imtiaz,

I am not a film critic, nor can I boast of being very cinema-savvy. But I have been insane enough to source my philosophies from cinematic moments. Films have been thriving territories for epiphanies. Highway comes at a point in my life when I am delving in the art of being ruthlessly honest to my feelings, of asserting myself, and of exploring a newer version of myself. This one is a film that resonates with me for various reasons.

For starters, I was also sexually abused as a child, and the perpetrator was a close relative. I could relate to the lingering and stealthy effect of the trauma depicted on screen. I also disclosed this fact to my family after entering adulthood. The film’s portrayal of the family’s reaction mirrored my situation. Watching Veera intrepidly telling it like it is and being unapologetically ‘herself’ in the last scene was heart-wrenching yet therapeutic for me.  I have not allowed myself that outburst though. Not yet.

Last year, my father succumbed to his mental illness and committed suicide. I know what you mean when you say that Bhaati’s death was the ultimate liberation for Veera. My dad’s death had a similar effect on me. I faced one of my worst fears. Nothing really terrifies me anymore. It incidentally also happened to be the year when I confronted the reality of my troubled marriage. Two trips that followed set me free in many ways. The salt pan scene in the film set against the ‘Tu Kuja’ soundtrack echoed my sense of self-inquiry.  After watching this film, I was even more convinced that a journey from which you don’t completely return was exactly what I needed. Unlikely confidants, unlikely confidences, and accidental yet gratifying connections were a part of my journey as well.

The journey in ‘Highway’ unfolds like a map of tragedies that exist in us, unfurls.  It was a catharsis to observe the metaphorical ride from fragility to strength to nerve. I was nodding my head vigorously in agreement while watching the moments on screen where the lines between terror and wonder blurred for Veera. I noticed that Veera climbed many rocks in the film – big and small. I am assuming it metaphorically indicated overcoming obstacles and the joy of small victories. Many people couldn’t fathom Veera’s behavior – laughing interspersed with crying, and then questioning herself aloud like she was having an out-of-body experience. According to my reading, her emotional reactions were a part of the process of shedding the repressed parts of herself, and, embarking on the confusing yet exhilarating expedition of letting her real feelings come to the fore.  Liberation is a strange and an idiosyncratic process.

The silent scenes in the film aptly mirrored the way a meditative stillness seizes our inner world, when we travel. Then you stumble upon moments that break you before they make you. They unshackle. They teach you to trust your gut. It is important for life to whirl you around and turn your world upside down oftentimes.

Memory is not something that fades in my case. It looms large and I crouch in its towering shadow. This time I have decided to soar higher than this menacing force. Patakha Gudi has egged me on to unleash that spirit, which was hitherto tucked away and silenced.

I have just begun the task of developing my own vocabulary to express who I am. Thanks to Highway, I am propelling myself further in the direction of dismantling norms that don’t serve me.

Before I sound like a gushing obsessive fanatic, I should wrap it up. Your film will be a part of the trajectory that is turning me into a functional, healthy, and a fulfilled woman. Thank-you Imtiaz, Thank-you Highway. I know I will get there soon. Along the way, I will live like I mean it.

@kuhukuro