Director Dibakar Banerjee, along with 11 other filmmakers, returned National Awards in solidarity with the protesting FTII students and against growing intolerance in the country on Wednesday in Mumbai. Reacting to the development, filmmaker Anant Mahadevan said the national awards are signs of protest against mediocre filmmaking and added that he would not return his award. “No, I am not returning my awards. They were won as signs of protest, against mediocre film making, I am not even returning them as a protest against no awards when one really deserved it,” he said.
Filmmaker and CBFC member Ashoke Pandit also expressed his doubts over the intention of film personalities returning the awards. “I was surprised by this act of so called film makers. These are the same people who had signed a memorandum before the Lok Sabha elections, that they don’t want to see Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister,” he said.
Speaking at the press conference where he returned his National Award, Anand Patwardhan said, “I haven’t seen so many incidents happen at the same time. This is a sign of what is beginning to happen and I think that is why people are responding all over the country in different ways.”
“We are protesting against the intolerance of debate and questioning against a student body wanting to have a better teaching environment, which then manifests in apathy,” said Dibakar Banerjee. The 46-year-old director, who won the National Award for Khosla Ka Ghosla (2008), said it was not easy for him to return his award. “Returning my very first National Award which I received for Khosla Ka Ghosla is not easy. It was my first film and for many my most loved,” he said.
Further explaining his stance, he said, “I’m not here out of anger, outrage. Those emotions have long been exhausted. I’m here to draw attention. What do you expect the students to do? Not a single bus has been burnt, not a single stone has been thrown, they have only gone for debates and discussion.”
Actor Anupam Kher , too, slammed the 12 filmmakers and said, “It’s disrespectful to return these prestigious awards. They’re disrespecting not just the government, but the producers who made those films and the audience who liked them and talked about them so much that they won the award.”
The Saransh actor calls it a publicity stunt. “How can someone call this a protest? What are they returning? A trophy? A shield? How will that get people talking about the protest? Apart from Dibakar, nobody is famous enough. And they are not even making or getting any films to make right now. It’s just a publicity stunt so that more people can know them and talk about them.” Anupam further insisted that this is all a “single-point agenda against our Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and that such acts only show our country in a negative light.