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Kundan Shah, Saeed Mirza, 22 others return National Awards

Arundhati Roy

Mumbai :  Twenty-four more names from the film fraternity including noted filmmakers Kundan Shah, Saeed Mirza and writer Arundhati Roy today returned their National Awards in support of protesting FTII students and against the growing environment of intolerance in the country.

The movement was kick-started by writers, who gave away their Sahitya Akademi awards in a symbolic show of protest against the growing disregard for freedom of speech and the murder of three intellectuals.

Soon scientists and many other filmmakers including Bollywood director Dibakar Banerjee and documentary maker Anand Patwardhan joined in the growing chorus against what they called government’s apathy in addressing these concerns.

Shah, an FTII alumnae, said giving up his only National Award which he received for cult film “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro” was a very sad but necessary decision to protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of FTII.

“This is the only National Award I have for ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ am I feel very sad to part with it. I owe this award to my alma mater FTII- there would’ve been no JBDY if I had not studied at FTII,” Shah said.

The director said before deciding to return their awards, they had raised the matter several times during the 139-day- long FTII strike but the government failed to listen.

“Is Gajendra Chauhan the right choice? This appointment is an insult to our intelligence and standing by this choice is kind of a slap on the thinking populace of this country. I want to ask the bureaucrats at the broadcasting ministry, the minister of state Mr Rathore and Minister Arun Jaitley- what face can they show to their family, their children when they make and stand by such an appointment to a very prestigious institute?”

Mirza, a former chairman of FTII and known for his films like “Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai” and TV show “Nukkad”, said the protest started by the students has become bigger and the movement against “intolerance, divisiveness and hate”.

“When the students of the FTII rose up in revolt against the ad-hoc and arrogant imposition of the governing council members of their institute by the government of India, little did they realise that the cause for which they were fighting would turn out to be so much larger.

“The battle that the students had begun went beyond the manipulation of education to include intolerance, divisiveness and hate,” Mirza said.

Writer Roy returned her best screenplay National Award that she received for “In which Annie Gives it Those Ones” in 1989.

The movement which has bee dubbed as “award wapasi” has faced criticism from some quarters, who call it selective protest but Shah countered the argument saying his films were against the then ruling government, Congress too.

“This is not a protest against BJP only- we’ve protested through our work against the Congress government too,” he said, adding the award money will be donated to charity, while the trophy will be given to the representatives of the I&B ministry.

Other noted names in the list include documentary filmmaker Anwar Jamal, director Virendra Saini, Pradip Krishnen, Manoj Lobo, sound designers Vivek Sachidanand, P M Satheesh, Ajay Raina, director Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti, editor Irene Dhar Malik, cinematographer Satya Rai Nagpaul, director Amitabh Chakraborty, filmmaker Tapan Bose and Madhusree Dutta.

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