More than 60 years after its release, filmmaker AJ Kardar's restored black-and-white film Jago Hua Savera (1958) was all set to be screened at the upcoming 18th Mumbai Film Festival, which begins on Friday.
But the Pakistani film, which in recent years has gathered accolades from all over the world about its poetic portrayal of the struggles of East Bengali fishermen and their families, has already fallen into a controversy with a police complaint being registered to halt its exhibition at the festival.
Mumbai-based social organisation Sangharsh is irked with festival organisers for 'selecting a Pakistani film to be showcased at the upcoming event' and hurting the 'national sentiments' in the wake of attack by terrorists, believed to be Pakistanis, in Uri which killed 18 Indian soldiers.
Prithvi Maske of Sangharsh, who filed the complaint on Saturday, told PTI: "The organisers of this event are more likely to flare the outrage among people by screening this Pakistani film in their film festival. This will just not be acceptable as it will give rise to more tension and outrage among the people." An IANS report quoted him as saying that they would protest outside Infiniti Mall (one of the festival venues in suburban Mumbai) if the organisers went ahead with the screening.
However, KBK Swamy, a Bengaluru-based lawyer told HuffPost India:
"Mere screening of film without any offensive content against the sovereignty of India would not call for any criminal prosecution. If the 'intention' of the programme organiser is to incite, any group/class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community, then they can be punished under section 505 of IPC."
"However, showing the criminal intention of the programme organiser or exhibiter is a very difficult task," he added.
He citied several examples that showcase the right of the Indian citizens for freedom of press — which includes cinema and other formats.
But Swamy opined that the case registered against the Mumbai Film Festival would not hold, because it would be hard to explain to the court, that how by merely exhibiting a Pakistani movie, public order would be spoilt or sentiments hurt.
He surmised that the case wouldn't attract any charges of sedition either.
However, perhaps caving under the pressure and impending repercussions, the organisers of the Mumbai Film Festival issued a statement on Monday that said:
"Given the current situation we have decided not to programme Jago Hua Savera as part of the Restored Classics Section."
The festival is chaired by actor Aamir Khan's wife and filmmaker Kiran Rao.
Jago Hua Savera was selected as the entry from Pakistan for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 32nd Academy Awards in 1960. Based on a story by Bengali novelist Manik Bandopadhyay (who is credited as co-writer), the film is considered an India-Pakistan masterpiece. The only professional actor in the film, Tripti Mitra, was Indian. Kolkata-based composer Timir Baran scored music for the film.
The film was made during the days of undivided Pakistan (now independent Pakistan and Bangladesh) and shot in Dhaka.
(With inputs from agencies)
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