Pune: Right-wing organisations in Pune have demanded a ban on the release of the award-winning Marathi film Dashkriya claiming that it portrays Brahmins and Hindus in a bad light and “creates hatred among castes.” They have also warned of untoward incidents if the film unit does not take their approval before releasing it.
According to them, the film shows Brahmins – and thus all Hindus – as greedy people who perform the last rites of bodies for their livelihood. Anand Dave the president of Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasabha, Pune, said, “We have asked the police commissioner of Pune to ensure that the film is not released and also told theatre owners to not release the movie.”
Dashkriya, which is scheduled to be released on November 17, shows how Brahmins exploit the emotions of bereaved families in order to earn money. Members of Kirvant community – who are Brahmins – perform the last rites of the dead on the 13th day after cremation to help achieve salvation from the cycle of birth. These rituals are performed on the banks of Ganges. The film shows how the emotionally vulnerable family of a recently deceased readily performs the rites as per the instructions of these Brahmins whose only objective is to earn money.
The film is based on a novel of the same name written by Baba Bhand and published in 1994. It won three National Awards at the 64th National Awards for Marathi films including best film, best supporting actor and best screenplay. The film has also won 11 awards given by the Maharashtra government.
According to Dave, “The recently-released promo of the film defames Brahmins saying that the community runs a business of salvation rituals. Thus the film defames Hindu traditions and also the Hindu religion. All religions have traditions of last rites and Hindus are no exception, but the filmmaker has decided to target only Hindu rituals, which are thousands of years old. No Brahmin can compel anybody to perform last rites but people do. It’s about faith.”
Dipak Agawane of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Pune, said: “Freedom of expression does not mean freedom to attack religion and different castes.”
When told that the movie has already been passed by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and is based on a novel published in 1994, Dave said, “First time we came across this novel and hence as soon as we got to know that it defames Hindu religion, we decided to protest. We were children when the novel was released. As far as certificate by CBFC is concerned, authorities at the board are not aware of Hindu traditions and culture and hence they passed the movie. But there are many examples that movies despite being passed by censor board could not be released. Many filmmakers had to edit them even after censor certificate. This director should show us the film, and after our approval he can release it.”
Sandeep Patil, the director of the film, however, said, “The film that has won national and state awards underlines the social double standards and inequality. The film is not about caste or religion. Besides, the censor board, the legal body, has passed it and we are going to release it on coming Friday as per schedule.”
He further added, “I don’t understand how organisations can criticise the film by watching a two-minute promo. They should watch the movie and then they can come for discussion if they still have different opinions. They can have different opinions but they can dictate the terms. If they want we should take their approval then let the government declare that they have legal rights of censorship. This is hooliganism and we will not pay attention.”
Bhand, the author of the novel, said, “The novel that I wrote 22 years ago talks on social discrimination and inequality. It does not talk against Brahmins or Hindus. The book has been translated into many languages, and many universities use it as part of their syllabus. I request them to watch the film and then decided their opinion.”
Filmmaker Kiran Yadnyopavit said, “All the sections should first watch the film and then discuss what differences they have with the content of the film. They should discuss them with filmmakers. People who are opposing the film should do it in a legal way. They cannot say that they will not allow the movie to be released.”
Some organisations like the Sambhaji Brigade have come forward in support of the film. Its leader Santosh Shinde said, “The film talks about superstitions and not about caste and religion. Right-wing organisations should watch the film and then protest in a legal way.”
Varsha Torgalkar is an independent journalist based in Pune.