The rising intolerance issue has divided Bollywood into two groups viz anti and pro-Narendra Modi.
On one hand, writers and filmmakers are returning the awards to express their resentment over rising intolerance in the country on the other hand Bollywood actor like Anupam Kher and many other members of the film fraternity came forward to support Modi government. He also led a march to Rashtrapati Bhavan alleging that the “award wapsi” campaign was being initiated with an intention to malign the country’s image by some people.
Many filmmakers and artistes including Madhur Bhandarkar, Ashoke Pandit, Priyadarshan, Manoj Joshi, Abhijeet Bhattacharya and writer Madhu Kishwar joined the march to hand over a memorandum signed by more than 40 personalities including actress Raveena Tandon to President Pranab Mukherjee. Kher had met Pranab Mukherje and also expressed his concern about the “award wapasi” campaign.
Bhandarkar, a National Award winner, alleged that those involved in the protest over intolerance had opposed Prime Minister Narendra Modi before he was elected, which raised questions about their intention.
“The projection that is happening for the past few days is very sad. The people who were against Modiji during elections are the same people who are coming out right now.
“The whole projection and narrative that is going abroad is wrong. It is a diverse country and of course there are incidents but we all condemn them. There is no two ways about it,” he said.
Anupam Kher asserted that protestors were not associated with any organisation or political party. “This march is led by Indians and for Indians.”
Film-maker Priyadarshan said the act of returning the awards is “childish”.
“People returning awards are doing a childish act. They should use the power of pen. Instances of intolerance have always been there. It is not something that happened yesterday. Shah Rukh Khan never said he is returning award,” Priyadarshan said.
“They are respected people but behaving like school children,” Priyadarshan said.
Central Board of Film Certification chairman, Pahlaj Nihalani had released a video tribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘Mera Desh Mahan’. Nihalani also plans to make a documentary film to expose FTII students as “anti-nationals”, who he thinks are backed by unimportant industry members whose only aim is to bring down the Modi government.
Earlier, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accused the Congress and Left intellectuals of practising ‘ideological intolerance’ towards the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and trying to project India as an intolerant society through structured and organised propaganda. Jaitley also appealed to “every well-wisher of India and the present Government” not to make statements that could vitiate the atmosphere and obstruct growth.
On the other hand, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has come forward to support writers and filmmakers who are protesting against Modi Government.
“It is stupid… It is stupid to be intolerant and this is our biggest issue, not just an issue… Religious intolerance and not being secular in this country is the worst kind of crime that you can do as a patriot.”
The filmmakers who have decided to return their National Awards are Dibakar Banerjee, Anand Patwardhan, Paresh Kamdar, Nishtha Jain, Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri and Lipika Singh Darai. Earlier, in Pune, two FTII alumni, Pratik Vatsa and Vikrant Pawar, made a similar announcement.