KOLKATA: Florida-based director Raj Amit Kumar is making a feature film on one of India’s most controversial subjects. Titled ‘Ayodhya’, the Hindi film will have Victor Banerjee in the cast.
Incidentally, Kumar’s first feature film — ‘Unfreedom’ — was banned in India for its “content” of a “different kind”. On Sunday, some scenes depicting same-sex love from the film that juxtaposes two stories (one about how a Muslim terrorist attempts to silence a liberal Muslim scholar and another about a woman who escapes an arranged marriage because she in a lesbian relationship) went viral after being leaked online.
The fight against the ban on ‘Unfreedom’ in Delhi high court will bring Kumar to India in July. “My fight is beyond ‘Unfreedom’ the movie,” he told TOI from Florida. “It’s about ‘unfreedom’ the movement. My fight against censorship is much more important than my film or anyone else’s film. My next film is a Shakespearean drama set in the contemporary politics of 1992 Ayodhya. I am not using any specific play but referring to the core themes that Shakespeare usually dealt with.”
Considering that Kumar is not attempting a documentary like Anand Patwardhan had done in ‘Ram Ke Naam’, the making of ‘Ayodhya’ will be very different. “It will be my way of retelling of history of India. I will deal with what happened in 1992 head on. This film is on a battle for politics, power, pride, land and a woman with the worst religious warfare in contemporary political history of India. Though mine is a fictional narrative, it will attempt to address the truth of our contemporary society,” Kumar said.
Historian Dr Sabyasachi Bhattacharya minced no words when TOI asked him if it’s the correct time to attempt a film like this. “Any time is the right time to speak the truth. One should consistently contest any appropriation of history for political purposes or any distortion of history for serving interests that are communal in nature. Today, the distinction between fiction and history is getting thin. Care should be taken to see that this film contests the untruths that float around,” he said.
Banerjee doesn’t know what role he will play in ‘Ayodhya’. “I have acted in ‘Unfreedom’ and I know that I will be there in ‘Ayodhya’. Everybody is capable of an interpretation of an event and I never think it is premature or immature of him to do so. It is up to us to assess his assessment and not pre-judge him,” Banerjee said.
Asked if the title could be an act in sensationalism, Banerjee defended the director, saying: “No sensationalism here. He teaches films in the States. He is very intense and takes his life and job very seriously.” As for his own political past (Banerjee had contested for BJP from Kolkata Northwest in 1991) in the context of his participation in such a film, the actor said the Babri Masjid killings have left a deep impact on his memory. “I can’t forget how misguided fools who climbed on top of the masjid were shot at. As for acting in this film, I am not going to sacrifice my individualism.”
Actor Adil Hussain, who has acted in ‘Unfreedom’, doesn’t doubt the capabilities of the ‘Ayodhya’ director either. As a parting shot, Hussain said, “When I had asked the director why he chose such a subject, he told me he wants to explore subjects that are not talked about in India. If ‘Ayodhya’ meets the fate of ‘Unfreedom’, it will prove that freedom of expression doesn’t exist in India. Hopefully, it will throw open a debate on freedom of expression in our country.”