Bollywood actor Anupam Kher said on Friday authorities at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University have refused to screen his film Buddha in a Traffic Jam and accused the university of stifling freedom of speech and expression.
“JNU should practice what they are preaching. If they’re talking about freedom of speech and expression, then they should follow it also,” Kher told India Today TV.
The actor, who is vocal about his support to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, made the comments after the film’s director Vivek Agnihotri complained on Twitter that the varsity did not give permission to screen the film.
Kher said he plays a professor who transforms the minds of students and incites them to become the change. He said it talks about the relationship between students and the teacher and the politics within.
The veteran actor told the news channel that the film, which was made two years ago and was waiting for producers, depicts the atmosphere that is prevalent in JNU today.
“If we’re talking about freedom of speech and expression, then what’s the problem with screening this film?” Kher asked.
Kher said that the university told him it cannot allow the film to be screened owing to the present atmosphere in the campus.
JNU has been in the news for the last one month after its students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and few other students were arrested after being charged with sedition for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans during an event to mark the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. Kumar was released after spending 20 days in Tihar Jail.
Police had also accused two other students -- Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya -- of allegedly shouting anti-India slogans. They surrendered late last month. Khalid and Bhattacharya are in judicial custody.
The arrest of the students has reignited a debate over free speech in a country where supporters of the ruling BJP government have cast themselves as champions of patriotism and sought to stamp out dissent.
“When reel reflects real, it becomes a significant film. Even if the film is controversial, what should be the problem in showing the film in the film society of JNU that is the most controversial place right now, for right or the wrong reasons.”
Kher said the filmmakers didn’t have the budget of Rs 5-6 crore to market the film so they decided to take the film across institutions and organisations to raise an awareness.
“The movie is about an institution. There are certain sections of a connection between Maoists and the students and the professor who is cultivating a certain breed of students which are not necessarily nationalistic,” Kher said.
When asked if that was the reason the movie was not allowed to be screened, he declined to comment.