Asian Age

‘Tibetan Films in Festival Test Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai Slogan’
(The Asian Age | August 21, 2004)

The Asian Film Festival, being held in the city from August 21 to 28, has become an arena for international politics. The organisers of the festival are reportedly under pressure from the People's Republic of China, to withdraw those films, which shows the troubled times in Tibet.

Fifty films from different countries in Asia were to be screened at the festival. Sources in the festival organising committee said that the two films, 'Kundun' by Martin Scorsese and 'Seven Years in Tibet' by Jean Jacques Annaud, were taken off from its screening list.

They also said that the festival chairman Sudhir Nandgaonkar was asked to not screen these two films for their pro-Tibet stance. Mr. Nandgaonkar, however, denied that he was threatened by the Chinese consulate in Mumbai. He said, "They did request me but there were no threats. There was a delay in getting the prints of these two films."

Friends of Tibet or FoT, a support group in India had approached Mr. Nandgaonkar in March this year, to include these films in the festival.

Friends of Tibet spokesperson, Aspi Mistry said that they approached the local Aashay Film Society to organise a festival of Tibetan films. The festival was to include Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet, along with Bernardo Bertolucci's 'Little Buddha', Khyentse Norbu's 1998 release, 'The Cup' and Brado Quilci's 'The Himalaya'.

Friends of Tibet was also trying to acquire prints of newly released 'Travellers and Magicians' by Norbu and the first Tibetan feature film 'We Are No Monks' by Pema Dhondup, starring Gulshan Grover.

Mr. Mistry said, "The president of Aashay, Virendra Chitrav, told us that organising a film festival needs considerable infrastructure and asked us to approach Mr. Nandgaonkar so that a few Tibetan films could be included in the festival," he said.

Mistry said, "On August 9, Mr. Nandgaonkar told us that he met the Chinese consulate officials in Mumbai and held an emergency meeting of the festival committee the next day. He said that none of the committee members were ready to go against the wishes of these officials. He also said that the foreign embassy threatened that if the films are not removed, they will use diplomatic pressure on the Indian Government so that it is not cleared by the censor board," he added.

Mr. Nandgaonkar denied the allegations and said that the situation is being used to gain political advantage by the Friends of Tibet.

"If they are so sensitive above the whole matter, then they should organise their own film festival. They are trying to gain political mileage. Politics and films are two different issues," he added.