Little did Prakash Jha know while making a film titled Satyagraha that one day he too would be at the receiving end of a similar social movement! After allegedly carrying out illegal construction work in a Bhopal playground, the filmmaker has been facing the wrath of local residents. This playground incidentally was the very spot from where Mahatma Gandhi had issued his first call for Satyagraha in 1929.
The Bhopal Citizens Forum (BCF) has objected to the laying of a tar-road and construction of a makeshift market by the production house at the grounds of the historic 19th century Benazir Palace. The issue was brought to the notice of the National Monuments Authority (NMA). They alleged that such temporary constructions would damage the historic fabric of the area which includes the grand Taj Mahal Palace (a namesake of the Taj Mahal), built by Nawab Begum Shahjehan of Bhopal.
Incidentally, sources from the city’s administrative department has claimed that the MP state government machinery has given a green chit to Jha after State Chief Secretary R Parasuram visited the location on Saturday morning. The shoot is slated to begin on January 26 and 80 per cent of the film will be shot there.
A district official, on conditions of anonymity, also alleges that the site that is otherwise rented at a cost of 2 lakh per month has been given to the filmmaker and his unit for a paltry amount of R 25,000 for the month. Locals also complain of Jha being given a “free run” of the city. In the meanwhile, the district collector has asked the film’s producers to file an affidavit stating that no damage would be done to the grounds or the palace and that it would be restored to its original state.
Jha’s close aide Zulfikar Ali says, “Prakashji has shot three other films in Bhopal earlier and we will be submitting the affidavit at the earliest. We have requisite permissions and the ground will be restored to its original condition.” The director however is the least bit affected by the locals’ ire. As a reaction to the allegations levelled against him, Jha shoots back, “What should I say? Go and ask the people who have raised these objections. The shoot will start as per the schedule.”