The press release issued by the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival on October 17, 2016, about dropping Jago Hua Savera from its schedule blamed the “current situation”. Is this nothing but a euphemism for a threat from the non-governmental organisation Sangharsh Foundation to disrupt the festival if the screening had been held as previously announced?
I suppose it was the festival’s call. What I do know, judging from overwhelming messages of support and calls that I have been getting, is that the decision to axe the screening is a loss for Mumbai. The city has missed out on seeing a classic, and this is upsetting.
My main reason for accepting the invitation to screen the restored film, which was produced by my father, Nauman Taseer, and directed by AJ Kardar, in 1959, was that I was thrilled to be showing the film in Mumbai. Here was the perfect platform – the movie centre of the subcontinent. Jago Hua Savera sees the best talent from East and West Pakistan and India participating in a production under trying circumstances. This is a film that was lost, rediscovered and restored. The new version is a perfect showpiece of the original masterpiece.
Of course, one must be respectful of people’s sensitivities, but don’t such actions go against freedom of expression and pluralism and further disturb the delicate balance between the people of the two countries? Are we doomed to be susceptible to the actions of a few, and too frightened to respect the wishes of the majority? A fringe organisation has made a political and cultural statement that no one can ignore.
Looking ahead, is there a chance that things will get better, or are our destinies going to be determined by an endless blame game on both sides? Jago Hua Savera provides an answer. The vast majority of the subcontinent is still living in abject poverty. Things have not changed much from the situation depicted in the 1959 film. Don’t we owe it ourselves and future generations to overcome this madness that will surely overcome all of us?