Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt has criticised the Maharashtra government for ignoring an apex court order to release producer Kamaal Khan's "Deshdrohi" in the state and yielding to the pressures of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
He said by ignoring the Supreme Court's order for the safe theatrical release of Deshdrohi in Mumbai on Jan 23, it was playing into the hands of the fascists elements of the state.
"The government has brazenly succumbed to the fascist elements operating in the state with impunity. It is very sad. 'Deshdrohi' has the legal sanction to be screened in Mumbai and yet the government has failed to ensure its safe release in the city, doling out excuse that its theatrical release would create a law and order problem. In other words, it has allowed itself to be dictated to by the MNS, which is unfortunate," Bhatt said on Saturday at a press conference.
Bhatt was speaking in support of the film's embattled producer, who had to knock the doors of the courts to secure the release of Deshdrohi in Mumbai in the face of stiff resistance from the MNS because the film depicts the party's anti-North Indian campaign in the city.
He also said by toeing the lines of the previous state government headed by Vilasrao Deshmukh and failing to honour the constitutional rights of the civil society, the Ashok Chavan government forfeited the right to govern the state.
When asked whether a film's content should be called into question, or can a state government put its screenings on hold after the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) clears its release, Bhatt said CBFC has no teeth to impose its order as it is merely a gradation authority.
"Law and order," he said, "is a state subject and so a state government can play any game to suit its purpose in the name of law and order. This is most unfortunate," Bhatt said.
He observed that the civil society of India could not afford to be a mere spectator to the manner in which the state government has trampled upon its constitutional rights.
"Time has now come to create a strong public opinion against it. It is not the battle of Kamaal Khan alone," Bhatt said.
But the sad part is that, of all the Bollywood filmmakers, barring Mahesh Bhatt, only Ketan Mehta came forward to extend support to Kamaal Khan's fight against the state government, even though the entire industry was called upon to raise its voice against the fascist MNS elements seeking to take the industry for ransom.