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An unpleasant surprise for Hansal Mehta

Hansal Mehta miffed after learning that the DFF chose to open their fest with the Marathi film Astu replacing Shahid

Director Hansal Mehta is crying foul after the Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) decided to replace his National Award winning film, Shahid, with Marathi film, Astu. Shahid was apparently supposed to be the opening film at the National Film Festival that began in New Delhi on Sunday, but the organisers decided to screen Astu instead.

Rajkummar Rao won the National Award for Best Actor for his performance in the Hansal Mehta-directed biopic, Shahid
Rajkummar Rao won the National Award for Best Actor for his performance in the Hansal Mehta-directed biopic, Shahid 

Mehta says, "On May 15, I was told that Shahid would be the opening film at the National Film Festival; I even confirmed my presence at the event. But it looks like this decision was reversed and I learnt about this only from the internet. I found this entire episode to be very arbitrary and I wonder why I was not informed about the change."

The DFF office, however, maintains that the film festival was postponed twice and filmmakers, including Mehta, were informed about it. Shankar Mohan, the DFF chief, says, "I am sure Mehta must've got a mail from our office. When the festival got cancelled twice, the plan to start with Shahid was also called off. Besides we needed a sizeable amount of people to be present at the opening, so Astu was chosen. The entire cast and crew were present at the opening on Sunday."

But Mehta denies getting any intimation about it. "I have to check again, but does that mean they changed the opening film without informing us even after sending the invitation?" he asks.

The director adds that this could be a politically motivated move. "I am constrained to believe that there are reasons beyond cinema for this sudden change and having a protagonist named Shahid is perhaps one of the causes.

I was opposed to the hypocritical appeasement politics practiced by the previous government and Shahid clearly demonstrates my stand on the matter. I am also vehemently opposed to the chauvinistic 'majoritysm' that looms large over the change promised by the new setup.

My only appeal is that keep your political compulsions out of cinema. I am not passing any judgement over Astu which was chosen over my film; I am just sad that films made with passion seem to become pawns in an unseemly political game." Shankar Mohan rubbished all claims made by Mehta.

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