Row over Aarakshan theme
Lucknow, July 16: Prakash Jha's upcoming film Aarakshan has run into a
controversy following complaints that the theme, reservation, might
unleash fresh social tensions and the director set against a special
screening for "self-appointed" censors.
This is not the first time the film, due for release on August 12, has
been embroiled in a dispute. Two months ago, some backward caste
leaders had protested against the choice of Saif Ali Khan, a scion of
a Bhopal royal family, to play a Dalit in the film.
The latest quarrel involves a July 14 notice from the SC/ST Commission
to the Censor Board. The board is expected to appear before the
commission, a constitutional body, on July 18.
"I would like to watch the film before it is released to see if it
might cause any fresh social backlash across the nation over the
sensitive issue of reservation. You know what happened in the country
over the issue in the past," commission chairman P.L. Punia, a former
chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, told The Telegraph today.
"A number of voluntary organisations approached me voicing concern
that the film's spirit was against reservation. It may cause social
unrest. They have formally sent applications to the commission and I
have taken cognisance of those," Punia, now a Congress MP from
Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, added.
The comment came a day after Jha issued a statement in Mumbai saying
he wouldn't allow a special screening of the film for the commission.
Tomorrow, some more organisations may approach with a request to
screen the film for them, he said. "Let the Censor Board decide
whether my film is damaging in any sense. I won't let it be censored
by self-appointed censors."
The maker of Rajneeti, however, said if there were any issues about
the upcoming film, he would clarify them for the commission.
The controversy comes months before elections are due in Uttar
Pradesh. Observers said the film could open new wounds in a state
whose 3.2 crore Dalits account for a sizeable chunk of the population
but occupy the lowest position in the social structure and face
Some politicians, mainly from the Congress, said if reservation
sentiments were resurrected before the polls next year, it could lead
to polarisation of votes along caste lines at a time party MP Rahul
Gandhi was focusing on development.
Old-timers recalled the storm the Mandal Commission recommendations
had unleashed in the eighties and the image of an anti-reservation
student leader in flames.
Leaders of Dalit chief minister Mayavati's BSP and the opposition
Samajwadi Party refused comment.
Another of Jha's hard-hitting films, Aarakshan is a high-voltage,
socio-political drama based on caste-based reservations in government
jobs and educational institutions.
Apart from Saif, a dairy owner who applies for the job of a professor,
the film features Amitabh Bachchan and Deepika Padukone.
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