“What right does Dibakar Bannerji have to return the National award? Khosla Ka Ghosla is not just his film. All of us, Vinay Pathak, Ranveer Shorey and I slogged our asses off in the sultry June heat of Delhi to shoot the film. And only I know what all I went through to somehow get the film completed and released because Dibakar fell out with the producer. And now Dibakar wants to be hero for the freedom of expression in this country by returning his National award? Dibakar didn’t see his freedom being thwarted when he wasn’t allowed to complete his first film?” sneers an angry Anupam who thinks it’s a fad to return awards, and it will soon die down.
Reasons the outspoken actor, “Unlike a sprinter, a filmmaker doesn’t work in isolation. Any award for cinema is a collective recognition. This is why when I am asked why I don’t return my acting awards I say I won’t because they are not just tokens of my hard work but all those who worked with me on all those award-winning films.”
Anupam is all praise for Vidya Balan. “Bahot achcha bola unhonein. When asked if she would return her National award, she said it is given by the people and not the government. And why should we return our awards just because some people with a hidden agenda are doing so? Where were Dibakar and the other filmmakers whom no one knows when worst atrocities were being perpetrated under earlier regimes? Why didn’t they return their awards during the Emergency?”
Anupam wonders what freedom of expression means in our country. “I was at a literary debate organized by Anil Dharkar where Shobha De was talking about the lack of freedom of expression. This is the same lady who began the culture of no-curbs on freedom of expression when she edited India’s first gossip magazine. Since then she has spoken her mind and used and exploited the film industry in her writings. Of course I was booed by her friends for speaking my mind about Ms De. But criticism doesn’t bother me. I will stand by what I believe. And I believe freedom of expression is a much-misused concept in our country.”
Anupam Kher sees the very existence of debate on freedom of expression as a sign of that freedom. “They were talking about freedom of expression at a literary event. A few miles away filmmakers were openly criticizing government policies at the MAMI film festival and some miles away stood the Taj hotel, a relic and a metaphor for India’s resilient democracy. How much more freedom of expression do you want?”
Anupam is not daunted by the critics who claim he is voicing the BJP mindset because his wife is an MP from the party.
“Let them say what they like. When people begin losing their validity in an argument they get personal.”
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