Ajai Sinha sold his house and office, invested all his savings in an issue-based film called Khap but now finds little support for it from the government. The producer-director had been working on another script when he came across a newspaper cutting of a panchayat sentencing a young couple to death for marrying within the 40 villages in the khap and immediately decided to take up the cause cinematically.
“Even the Supreme Court is fighting to get khap panchayats banned and I’d hoped for a tax exemption for my film, so it could reach out to more people and help eradicate this centuries-old tradition that has been grossly misinterpreted in states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. But none of the politicians want to see or talk about my film because they’re afraid their vote bank will be affected,” sighs a disillusioned Sinha.
And with a khap panchayat threatening to sabotage his film, due to release on July 29, Sinha is understandably afraid. But he is determined to see it through. “I know I have the support of the common man. The cousin of Manoj, who with wife Babli, was a victim of honour killing, was present at the music release of my film, along with a young Muslim couple who had been in hiding since their controversial marriage. Although the wife was nine months pregnant, she chose to come out in the open, facing the media bravely, despite knowing that it could endanger her life,” says an emotional Sinha, who jokes that if the film doesn’t work he may be forced to find shelter on the railway platform in Lucknow.For now though, there’s some encouraging news in that the film has been selected for the Stuttgart and the River to River film festivals.