The National Film Awards and the controversy around ‘Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare’

Ekhon Nedekha Nadir Xipaare is an Assamese film directed by Bidyut Kotoky and starring Sanjay Suri, Victor Banerjee Raj Zutshi, Priti Jhangiani and Bidita Bag. Incidentally, the film also has a Hindi version- as the River flows. Produced by NFDC, the film also has been certified by the Censor Board as an Assamese movie ( the Hindi version is still awaiting its censor certificate ). A prime candidate in contention for the National Film Awards this year, it came as a surprise to many that the film ultimately did not win any award.

What angered Bidyut and the rest of the cast and crew of the film was when they heard that the reason for rejecting the film from the awards was because the Jury felt that this film was ‘not Assamese’ enough. The jury, headed by actor Rohini Hathangady, had Assamese filmmaker Hiren Bora as a member. According to Bora, “The jury was of the view that a major chunk of the film was shot in Mumbai and most of the dialogues were in Hindi.”

Says Bidyut ” They need not have given any explanation for not giving my film an award. Or they could have simply said its a bad film and I would have accepted it. But saying that the film is hardly an Assamese film is something that’s totally unacceptable to me and the rest of the team who worked with me on the film”.

Victor Banerjee was one of the first people from the team to react and this is what he had to say about the whole thing- “I am flummoxed by the sheer absurdity of a National Jury watching an Assamese language film, directed by an Assamese, shot in Assam and then proclaiming it ‘not Assamese’. The entire nation is rather ignorant about the north east and it is ridiculous circumstances like the one Bidyut Kotoky is confronting today that helps me understand why the north east is up in arms, wanting for decades, to sever ties with the rest of India,” says Banerjee.

Now two NRI’s, Wahid Saleh and Satyajit Nath who have been championing the cause of various Assam centric activities have come forward with a petition to Ms. Ambika Soni, Union Minister, Information & Broadcasting, Government of India seeking to protest the decision of the jury of the National Film Awards in India this year to disqualify Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare, as “not Assamese”, even though the film had already been certified as Assamese by the official censorship authority in India.

As per the petition letter here are the key points why it is impossible to understand how the jury decided to term the film as “not Assamese”:

1. The film has been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification of India as an Assamese film. As a side note, the film also has a Hindi version (titled ‘As the River flows’) but that version was not in consideration by the jury

2. The film is produced as an Assamese film by a Government of India agency, the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), along with its Hindi version

3. The story of the film is based on Assamese society and geo-politics. It is set in the famous river island of Majuli on the Brahmaputra in Assam.

4. Since the story has deep relevance to Assamese society, three artistes with deep ties with Assam – Victor Banerjee, Zubeen Garg, and late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, have made significant contributions to the film

5. The majority of the dialogue of the film is in Assamese. Non Assamese speaking actors in the film, like Naved Aslam, Bidita Bag, Sanjay Suri, Nakul Vaid and Raj Zutshi, had to learn to speak their lines for the film in that language. A minority of the dialogue in the film is in Hindi and in English, because the story and the character demanded it.

The petition letter has already been signed online by close to 400 people at the moment of posting this. The appeal which can be seen here can be signed till 15th April after which it is likely to get forwarded  to Ms.Ambika Soni. So whoever feels that the cause is worth it can check out the petition letter and decided for themselves if they want to sign the same as well.

Some of the popular names who have supported this appeal include Nandita Das, Ina Puri ( Art curator,  former jury memeber of National Film Awards ), Adil Hussain, Amole Gupte and many more.

We at MAM certainly hope and wish that a cause like this in the form of the appeal gets its due in some way or the other.

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