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By: Upala KBR, Mid-Day
Monday, June 05, 2006
Last week Mahesh Bhatt filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the Gujarat government in the Supreme Court in support of Aamir and for the screening of Fanaa in Gujarat. The case comes up for hearing today.
Bhatt has pledged support for Aamir in his tussle with the "fascist forces" in Gujarat who've been advocating a hate-campaign against Aamir's latest film, Fanaa.
Says Bhatt, "After eight years, I sent a text message to Aamir asking if we could talk. He called back immediately and I told him that we might have had differences on a personal basis, but I stand by your right to say things without being penalised. I also told him that I was filing a PIL along with the Jan Sanghursh Manch, an NGO group in Gujarat which is fighting against social evils.
We need to have faith in our courts. Some members of the film industry wanted to take a delegation to CM Narendra Modi, but I say how can you go to a state government who has been a mute spectator to everything that has been going on in Gujarat?"
Last week Bhatt met senior BJP leader, Shatrughan Sinha. Says Bhatt, "Shatru told me that I have done the sanest thing by going to court and it's been a courageous step to take - to believe in a cause so much and file a PIL.
Says Shatrughan Sinha, "I hold Mahesh Bhatt in high esteem. He's an intellectual in a true sense and a very dear friend of mine. He has done the right thing by going to the court - the Supreme Court. In such matters or confusion, it is better to get clearance from the courts.
Having said this, I will, however, add that Fanaa, which is being talked about and doing very well, is thanks to the large number of prints and of course, the controversy surrounding the film which in common mass lingo is called 'free publicity.' About the film, the lesser said the better."
He adds, "The film hasn't been allowed to release in Gujarat because of emotional upheaval. The people of Gujarat have felt hurt as Aamir, by his body language, and statements showed as if he was against the Sardar Sarovar dam project, in short the Narmada project, which has been like a lifeline to the people in Gujarat.
As such, there is no ban in Gujarat on Fanaa. The people of Gujarat on their own and in consultation with the multiplexes and theatres in Gujarat, have decided not to run Fanaa."
Right of rejection
Will Mahesh Bhatt through his PIL, be able to influence the ban in Gujarat? "I respect Mr Bhatt's approach but Fanaa dekhna har Indian ka birthright nahin. It's their choice. It's difficult for a court to direct someone to watch a film if they don't want to. While agreeing with my friend Mahesh Bhatt on every citizen's right to freedom of expression in a democracy, I also disagree.
In a democracy, every citizen has also the right of rejection. People have the right to reject a film because of emotional reasons. Not just Mahesh Bhatt, but the people should and could have gone to the courts for the Da Vinci Code," says Shatrughan Sinha.
UNI reported today that The Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed by eminent film producer and director Mahesh Bhatt seeking directions to Gujarat DGP to provide protection for exhibition of Aamir Khan starrer Fanaa. A vacation bench comprising Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice C K Thakker said, ''We are not inclined to entertain the petition. However, it goes without saying that if an exhibitor of the movie approaches the concerned police for protection, the same shall be provided.'' Earlier, counsel for NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch, petitioner number 2, Collin Gonsalves pleaded before the court that the protests were earlier confined only to the state of Gujarat but now had spilled over to Uttar pradesh and Madhya Pradesh also.
The petitioner said Fanaa had been facing trouble in the BJP-ruled state of Gujarat simply because its hero Aamir Khan had taken stand against the construction of Sardar Sarovar dam project. It may also be noted that Aamir Khan quoted Narmada Bachao Andolan's plea that tribals and farmers who had been ousted after acquisition of their lands by the government must be rehabilitated first, the petitioner said. Mahesh Bhatt, in his petition, has also contended that such attitude of Sangh Parivar-related organisations amounted to infringement of the fundamental right to freedom of expression.