Even Non-BJP States Fear Screening ‘Ram Ke Naam’: Anand Patwardhan
‘Ram Ke Naam’ screenings were disallowed in Hyderabad Central University and Kolkata’s Presidency University.
Ram Ke Naam, the award-winning documentary on the Ram janmabhoomi movement in Ayodhya, is making news 27 years after its release. Screenings of Ram Ke Naam were recently disallowed in Hyderabad Central University and Kolkata's Presidency University. The film’s director, Anand Patwardhan, speaks to The Quint regarding the controversy surrounding his documentary.
The following are excerpts from the conversation.
‘Speaks Poorly of Our Democracy’
How do you react to the news of screenings of your documentary being disallowed in top universities in Hyderabad and Kolkata?
Anand Patwardhan: I was very upset last week when I heard that in Hyderabad Central University, students had organised a screening of Ram Ke Naam and the university stepped in and denied them permission at the last minute. When the students moved to another room, they called in the police. Hyderabad Police detained six university students.
At the same time, in Kolkata, at Presidency University, university authorities objected to the screening, so even that has been cancelled at the last minute.
So, that was a very disturbing thing because this particular film of mine has a ‘U’ censor certificate, it’s a film that was made 29 years ago, and it won the National Award at the time for the Best Investigative Documentary.
On the basis of that (the National Award), we went to Doordarshan. DD rejected the film, but finally, we went to court and the court ordered that the film had to be shown on prime time. So, in 1996, this film was shown at prime time on Doordarshan. So there’s no business for the university to take a stand that the film could not be shown. It’s completely illegal, and it speaks poorly for our democracy.
‘Fear Psychosis Even in Non-BJP States’
The places in which the screenings were disallowed are educational institutions in Hyderabad and Kolkata. Did you expect the police in Hyderabad, for example, to act against the students at the screening? It is the Telangana Rashtra Samithi led by K Chandrasekhar Rao that is in power there in the state. Even in Bengal, it is the ardently anti-BJP Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress who are in government. Does it come as a surprise then?
Anand Patwardhan: It’s strange that both these states where the films were stopped (West Bengal and Telangana) are not controlled by the BJP. So, that means that the fear psychosis has gotten into people even in states not controlled by the BJP, and that’s a bad sign.
But what is hopeful is that people are actually fighting back. When we made a noise about it and the media people picked it up, the Hyderabad Central University had second thoughts and they have now agreed to show the film. Meanwhile, in Jadavpur University in Kolkata as well, there is going to be a screening in solidarity. So, the good news is that there is resistance on the ground and people are willing to show the film.
27 Years On, Still as Relevant
Twenty seven years since its release, your documentary is still creating a buzz. Why do you feel it has maintained its relevance even close to three decades later?
Anand Patwardhan: The film is all the more relevant today because the court case about the Babri Masjid demolition is still not completed. In fact, that is on a backtrack, it’s going very slowly in Allahabad. Meanwhile, the case between the mediation between the two groups, regarding building of the Ram temple, that case is moving fast, but the case about the actual demolition of the mosque has been held up.
Neither the case, nor the controversies around the documentary have come to a close in all these years. Here’s the trailer of the film that has received plaudits at home and abroad, but finds itself subject to censorship efforts in university campuses today.
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