By A Staff Reporter
BOMBAY, October 3.
ANAND Patwardhan’s award-winning film, “Hamara Shehar”(Bombay Our City), is likely to be shown on Doordarshan following a directive by the Bombay high court to that effect in a writ petition filed by the film-maker against the state-owned television monopoly.
Allowing the petition with costs, Mr Justice Ashok Agarwal said that the refusal of the television authorities to screen the film in their letter dated April 3, 1987, was “to say the least, wholly unjustified.” Accordingly, the judge granted the petitioner’s prayer that the April 3 order be quashed. He also granted Rs 3,500 by way of costs.
The order said Mr Patwardhan had produced and directed several documentary films before he made the film in petition. The film dealt with the problems of the 4.5 million persons who lived in slums or on pavements in the city. It projected the conditions that compelled the poor to leave their ancestral villages, and to migrate to the city where they were denied basic amenities. The judge noted that the documentary made an impassioned plea to realise the ideals enshrined in the Constitution.
The documentary has won several national and international awards, has been screened at various international festivals, received rave reviews in India and abroad and had been leased to various organisations. It got the President’s Gold Medal in 1985 and got the Filmfare award for the best documentary film.
The judge said having achieved these distinctions, Mr Patwardhan submitted the film to the directorate-general of Doordarshan, New Delhi No decision was taken for a year despite several reminders and visits by the petitioner. On April 3,1987, he got a letter from the authorities rejecting the film.
Mr Patwardhan sent two letters in 1987 asking why the film could not be shown and the guidelines under which this decision was arrived at. The petitioner said his fundamental right to speech and expression had been violated.
The judge said as no reasons were ascribed it was to be presumed that there had been a non-application of the mind. He felt there was no doubt that the right to expression through Doordarshan was a fundamental right The order noted that the affidavit-in-reply of Doordarshan was silent on the aspect of which guideline the film had violated. The judge rejected the argument that the film did not have topically.
Mr Patwardhan said in the petition that while the film had been sent to Hong Kong and Sweden by the National Film Development Corporation, a state-owned enterprise like Doordarshan, the government was unwilling to show the same film to his countrymen. He called this attitude unreasonable and arbitrary. He felt that the film had been made ‘ from the standpoint of the poor and needed to be shown to Indians. The petition also mentioned that a previous film of his “A time to rise” had also not been screened by Doordarshan.
Mr P. A. Sabastian appeared for the petitioner, white Mr B. G. Rele with Miss S. I. Shah appeared for the respondents.