A black and white arthouse film from Pakistan from 1959 has become the latest casualty of the jingoism that has followed the Uri attack September, in which 19 Army soldiers died.
Jago Hua Savera, directed by Pakistani director AJ Kardar, written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and featuring Indian actors, musicians and technicians, was to have been screened in the restored classics section at the Mumbai Film Festival (October 20-27). Not any more: “Given the current situation, the Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival with Star has decided not to programme Jago Hua Savera as part of the Restored Classics Section,” said a press release.
A complaint filed by a non-governmental organisation called Sangharsh Foundation against the screening appears to have spooked the organisers into dropping the neo-realist classic from its programme. Sangharsh filed a police complaint on October 15 against the festival for announcing Jago Hua Savera as part of its lineup. “We don’t have objections to any other films but just don’t show any films from Pakistan,” said Prithvi Maske, who heads the organisation.
Kardar’s film, produced by Nauman Taseer, represents a rare spirit of collaboration between undivided Pakistan, India and England. The movie is based on a novel by Manik Bandopadhyay and features the Indian actress Tripti Mitra and the musician Timir Baran alongside Pakistani actors and British technicians. The film explores the hardships of a fishing community in what is now Bangladesh. Its prints were missing for several years and were finally found by Taseer’s son, Anjum. The restored film has been shown at various festivals, including Cannes in 2016.
Maske drew a link between showing Jago Hua Savera at the film festival, for which entry is restricted to delegates, and the October 28 release of Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Johar’s movie has been facing a vicious backlash from right-wing groups because it has Pakistani actor Fawad Khan in its cast. A decision by the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India to suspend the release of films featuring Pakistani artists has immediate repercussions for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Unlike the Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association ban on Pakistani actors working in Hindi films, which applies to future projects, the exhibitiors' organisation's directive has been issued against movies that were made long before tensions broke out between India and Pakistan.
Johar is one of the trustees of the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image that organises the Mumbai Film Festival, and Maske tried to suggest that there was a conspiracy at work here. “If Jago Hua Savera is shown at the Mumbai film festival, then Karan Johar can justify releasing Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,” said Maske, whose NGO had earlier filed a complaint with the Mumbai police against the actor Om Puri’s remarks about Army soldiers following the Uri attack.