Anubhav Sinha’s socio-political masterpiece Article 15 has done what cinema is meant to. It has created a stir across the nation.
“Yes, more than we had bargained for,” says Anubhav with a dry laugh, “Protesters have bullied their way into theatres in Kanpur, Rourkee and Patna and disrupted shows. In Patna there was violent protests against the film at a theatre, and then there were violent protests from those who wanted the film to go on. The film was finally taken down in Patna.”
Anubhav called up Patna’s District Magistrate who apparently refused to entertain the director’s complaint.
Says Anubhav, “I introduced myself to the DM and asked him what the administration was doing to protect my film’s audience in Patna. He had nothing to say and he hung up on me. This is the administrative apathy that we’ve addressed in the film. This is why people need to see Article 15. Let them watch, let them hate the film. Let’s have dialogue. Not violent protests.”
Instead, Anubhav has been facing serious threats. “One fringe outfit has threatened to cut off my tongue. Another has threatened to cut off my neck. I imagined myself without a neck. It wasn’t a pretty sight. But jokes aside, I am worried. I have a family. I have a team. We made a film that needs to be seen and discussed.”
However, Suman Sinha, a prominent exhibitor of Patna has this to say. “I admire Anubhav Sinha as a filmmaker. And I think Article 15 is a very good film. But I am afraid Anubhav ji doesn’t understand the repercussions of inflaming caste hatred. He made his film and said what he had to,and everyone is applauding it. But does he know what hardships we’ve to go through? Protesters marched into Mona Cinema (in Patna) on the day after the film was released. They beat up the theatre’s 60-year old manager very badly. The artiste is protected by his art. But who protects us who exhibit the art? I suggest Anubhav ji show this kind of film outside India. In India we exhibitors are not protected against attacks of this kind.”
Suman Sinha recalls the experience of Prakash Jha’s Gangaajal. “He wanted me to host a premiere in my theatre in Patna, where he wanted to invite Lalu Yadav and family. I refused. When it comes to politics it is best for us to remain neutral.”