The cause is bigger than the award

Returning an award is a very small way of registering protest. It is a small way of expressing that you have freedom of speech and you can think. I am returning my only National Award to express my dissatisfaction over what has been happening with the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) issue, and the ideology that curtails freedom all over the country — on a cultural, educational and economic level. We are protesting all this. The cause is bigger than the award. It has to be.

Sound editor MP Satheesh, directors Madhusree Dutta, Saeed Mirza and Kundan Shah, editors Irene Dhar Malik and Bina Sarkar returned their National Awards at Mumbai Press Club yesterday. Pic/Onkar Devlekar
Sound editor MP Satheesh, directors Madhusree Dutta, Saeed Mirza and Kundan Shah, editors Irene Dhar Malik and Bina Sarkar returned their National Awards at Mumbai Press Club yesterday. Pic/Onkar Devlekar

A majority of people had supported Narendra Modi’s government, and we are not fighting against this. If Modi is working towards progress, we will extend our support to him. Even if he makes 20 mistakes, we are willing to forgive him. But the thought process, the intentions must be right. If the government were to make mistakes while working with good intention, people can forgive that. But when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), an authority appointed by the President, submits a report about wrongdoings and the central government doesn’t react to it, how can we support it?

Also, to the people who are calling us intolerant and saying that we have a political agenda against BJP, I would like to say that they have not understood us. I genuinely feel what has been happening at FTII is wrong.
People are also saying that returning an award is not the right thing to do. Instead, we should have a dialogue with the government. I want to inform them that we had written a number of times to the government addressing the FTII cause, but no one was interested in a dialogue. So, we had to demonstrate our discontent.

It was after protests were launched that the government reviewed the Land Acquisition Bill. If the government responds to our complaints, we will stop the protest.

If we do not get any response from the government even after returning the National Award, we will think of new ways to demonstrate our discontent. So far, the government has not responded. The only response we have got is from some people who took offence when a few film directors opted to return their awards. But, I want to make it clear that our intention is not to start a confrontation, but to have our concerns be heard.

Kundan Shah won the National Award for the first film he directed, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983)

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