As Congress Activists Disrupt ‘Indu Sarkar’ Promotion, Bhandarkar Asks For Free Speech

In a tweet to Rahul Gandhi, Madhur Bhandarkar asked the leader whether he approved of the ‘hooliganism’ demonstrated by Congress supporters.

Madhur Bhandarkar and a poster for <em>Indu Sarkar</em>. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Twitter

Madhur Bhandarkar and a poster for Indu Sarkar. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Twitter

New Delhi: Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar, whose upcoming film Indu Sarkar has drawn the ire of Congress leaders and cadre, had to cancel promotional events in both Pune and Nagpur over the weekend. In both cities, Congress workers stages protests outside his hotel and he was advised not to leave by hotel management, reports said.

Indu Sarkar is set in the backdrop of the 1975-77 Emergency and has characters inspired by Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi. Supporters of the Congress have said the film portrays the leaders in a bad light.

Bhandarkar moved the venue of his planned press conference in Nagpur on Sunday three times before he finally decided to cancel it altogether. At each announced location – Port-au-Gomez restaurant, Hotel Centre Point and Hotel Airport Centre Point – protesters followed mediapersons and created a disruption outside, Indian Express reported. After protesters reached the third location as well, the press conference was cancelled altogether.

In Pune on Saturday, Bhandarkar said he and the film crew were “stranded like hostages” inside a hotel for over three hours as protesters had made their way to the hotel lobby. “This was absolutely shocking… What is the problem if I make a film on Emergency?” National Award winner Bhandarkar told NDTV.

Defending the protests against Bhandarkar, Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe told Indian Express, “We are not against anybody’s freedom of expression, but it should not be an excuse to distort history. People are misled into believing things which are not true about Emergency.” Congress leader Pawan Khera, however, told NDTV that the party condemned the protests and had nothing to do with them. “The Congress party absolutely distances itself from these kinds of protests. We criticise it, we condemn it,” he told the TV channel.

Former Nagpur mayor and current city BJP president Vikas Thakre was also part of the protests in the city. “We can not tolerate Bhandarkar’s design to project our former Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi in poor light. We are chasing Bhandarkar, where ever he is hiding in the city,” Asian Age quoted him as saying.

Expressing his outrage at Congress supporters’ behaviour on Sunday evening, Bhandarkar tweeted at party vice president Rahul Gandhi. “Can I have my freedom of expression?” he asked.

Speaking to reporters later from the Nagpur airport, Bhandarkar said, according to The Hindu, “It’s really sad that Congress workers are creating a ruckus at our press conferences. On Saturday, about 200 people entered the hotel in Pune and stalled the event. Rahul Gandhi is the leader and his party workers are creating a ruckus at our events and threaten to blacken our faces and throw ink at us. This is wrong and the party must condemn it. It is my responsibility to ask Mr. Gandhi when this mistreatment will end. The party talks of the freedom of expression. People write books and make documentaries [on Indira Gandhi]. Can’t I make a film? You are reacting to a trailer of three minutes. The film is 70% fictional and 30% based on books and documentaries. My actors and I are scared and have cancelled our trips to Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Let the people watch the movie.”

Earlier on, the Central Board of Film Certification had ordered 12 cuts and two disclaimers in Indu Sarkar, leaving the director “appalled”. He was asked to remove references to the RSS and ‘Akali’, as well as dialogues like “Bharat ki ek beti ne desh ko bandi banaya hua hai (A daughter of India is keeping the rest of the country prisoner)”, “Aur tum log zindagi bhar maa-bete ki gulami karte rahoge (You people will be slaves to the mother-daughter all your life)” and “Main toh 70 saal ka buddha hoon, meri nasbandi kyun karwa rahe ho? (I am 70 years old, why are you getting me sterilised?)”. Bhandarkar said he would take challenge the proposed cuts.

Interestingly CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani, often accused of making arbitrary and unnecessary cuts, had earlier praised the movie and Bhandarkar’s efforts. “I saw Madhur’s trailer, and I want to congratulate him for blowing the lid off one of the most shameful chapters of Indian politics. This was a time when the nation was put in the most embarrassing spotlight in the global arena. Many of our biggest leaders had to go to jail during the Emergency. Indian people’s morale had hit rock-bottom,” India Today quoted him as saying. Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam wrote Nihalani a letter when the trailer was released, asking that they be shown the film before it is made public.

The ruckus brings back memories of Gulzar’s 1975 film Aandhi which was banned by the Congress government 20 weeks after it had been released. The film, about a woman politician angered the Congress because actress Suchitra Sen was made to look like the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, especially since it had scenes showing her smoking and drinking.

Indu Sarkar, starring Supriya Vinod, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Kirti Kulhari, Anupam Kher and Tota Roy Chowdhury, is to be released on July 28.

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