Subsequent state governments for the past 14 years have neglected Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, as far as making a film on the social reformer is concerned.
As director Jabbar Patel and National Film Division Corporation (NFDC), the executive producer of the film, have failed to submit the primary plan of the film, which was cleared by the cabinet in 2002, its cost has escalated by two-and-a-half times and the expenditure of Rs 50 lakh spent on the research has earned nothing. To add to the misery, not a single government in the past 14 years cared to give the project a thrust.
On the occasion of the release of a film on the life of Dr BR Ambedkar in 2002, the one on Phule was announced by the state government at a function organised at Shivaji Park.
Phule was a social reformist during the pre-Independence period who fought for various issues, more importantly, the rights of women in society. He also started the first-ever girls school in India, in Maharashtra, along with his wife. In 2002, the state issued a government resolution after the cabinet decided to produce the film in 2002. The state had contemplated to spend Rs10 crore with 50 per cent contribution from the Government of India and 25 per cent from the Madhya Pradesh government.
However, nothing moved since the cabinet nod. The government released Rs 50 lakh for the NFDC and Patel between 2006 and 2013, but the work did not progress. This led to the finance department’s strictures. The department raised questions over the delay and failure of submission of the utilisation report of Rs50 lakh given to the NFDC and Jabbar Patel. It has also pointed out the possible strictures from the comptroller and auditor general for the delay and the escalation of the cost.
“On insistence of OBC leader and then deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, the government had taken the decision of producing the film. Though a verbal consent was taken from then Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh and the leadership at the Centre, there was no documented evidence. Subsequent chief ministers wrote letters to both the governments, but nothing happened,” said an official from Mantralaya.
After the finance department raised serious objections to the film treading at snail’s pace, the general administration department moved the file for the intervention of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who last week directed the chief secretary to expedite the proposal.
“It would be apt to complete the film during the 125th death anniversary (ongoing year) of Phule. A decision should be promptly taken by the chief secretary ,” Fadnavis said. The finance department raised questions over the delay and the failure of submission of the utilisation report of Rs 50 lakh. It has also pointed out the possible strictures from the comptroller and auditor general for the delay and the escalation of the cost.
“The research work, scripting, identification of the locations for shooting has been done. Once the decision about the finance is clear, we will complete the film in record time,” said Jabbar Patel.