After a host of filmmakers, including names like Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan, returned various government awards and honours they have received to express solidarity with FTII students, a few members of the Hindi film fraternity termed it as a “publicity gimmick” and an “insult”.
Anupam Kher, Madhur Bhandarkar and Ashoke Pandit are among those who have called the step — which is also a mark of protest against impediments to freedom of speech and expression in the country — disrespectful.
Bhandarkar, a National Award winning filmmaker who’s known for using his camera to pan on the dark side of society, shared on Twitter that returning an award is not only an insult to the honour but to one’s craft as well.
“In my view, giving away the National Award is a disrespect to oneself and also to the actors, technicians, audience, jury members, and Hon. President,” tweeted Bhandarkar, who has won National Awards for his films like “Page 3” and “Chandni Bar”.
The filmmakers who returned the awards on Wednesday are Paresh Kamdar, Nishtha Jain, Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri and Lipika Singh Darai, apart from Banerjee and Patwardhan.
With the move, the filmmakers extended their support to the agitating Film and Television Institute of India students in Pune.
Through a series of tweets, Pandit shared: “When are these #Scientists #writers #Filmmakers returning the cash proponent of their awards?#ViralRevolt.
“Dibakar Banerjee should have used some other means of publicising his film rather than falling into the trap of fraud gang of #secularists.”.
“Buddha In A Traffic Jam” maker Vivek Agnihotri criticised the move, saying that the filmmakers have already exploited the honour to their advantage.
“India is the first and the only country where people don’t refuse awards but return awards after milking them to their advantage,” Agnihotri posted.
Even Anupam Kher shared: “This #AwardWapsiGang has not insulted the government, but the jury, the chairman of the jury and the audience who watched their films.”
“Some of these usual suspects of #AwardWapsiGang were instrumental in getting me out of Censor Board the moment Congress came in Power. #Agenda,” added the veteran actor.
The move by select filmmakers happened on Wednesday, only hours after three prominent alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India – Vikrant Pawar of Maharashtra, Rakesh Shukla of Uttar Pradesh and Prateek Vats of Goa — announced that they would return their National Awards to protest “an atmosphere of intolerance” in the country in the last few months.
Together, these incidents reflect the “peaceful” protests that FTII students have vowed to continue despite ending their 139-day strike against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute’s chairman.