Mahesh Bhatt, Dilip Kumar begin ‘Fire,
BY SONIA TRIKHA
New Delhi, Dec 7:
Even as Regal theatre wore signs of a different kind of protest on Monday, eight eminent citizens, among them Dilip Kumar and Mahesh Bhatt, filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking smooth screening of Deepa Mehta’s Fire. The movie was withdrawn after Shiv Sainiks protested against it in Mumbai and Delhi.
But a week after the violent protest in the Capital, the Toronto-based director participated in a candlelight demonstration led by several women organisations. She was joined by others from the cultural set, among them her producer, Bobby Bedi, theatre and TV actor Manohar Singh, painter and sometime actor Manjit Bawa, cultural impresario Rjeev Sethi, and many more friends and sympathisers, all of whom came to “show solidarity” with the cause of freedom of expression and speech.
But the two women in the eye of the storm, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, were nowhere to be seen. The Rajya Sabha member, who plays Radha in Fire, is in London, and Das, who acts as Sita/Nita, has fractured a foot. “But of course they are with us in this even if They could not be here,” said Mehta.
Representatives of organisations such as Ankur, Sakhi and Saheli carried placards reading “lesbianism is part of Indian heritage”, “Our right to freedom of speech and expression is on Fire”, and “Shiv Sainiks are terrorists, not moralists". Media presence also briefly turned the protest into press conference. Mehta said she was there not just to protest against attacks on her film but also to “demand the right to freedom”.
The owner of Regal, Siddesh war Dayal, too, came out of the theatre to join the protesters on the road. Mehta apologised to him for the damage to the theatre while he in turn told the press he would be willing to screen the film again if the Government granted him protection against the Shiv Sena.
Bedi said it was a sad experience but not a new one after the problems he faced earlier with Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen. “We know all about this and we will fight,” said Bedi.
The fight took the form of a petition in the Supreme Court earlier in the day.
Moved under Article 32 of the Constitution, the petition seeks enforcement of the fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 14, 19 (1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution, and names Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray among respondents.