Nandita Dass opts out of Karachi Lit Fest but not for Anupam Kher

After Anupam Kher, it’s Nandita Das who has opted out of the controversial Karachi Literary Festival. Says Nandita, “I have been unwell since Wednesday morning and unfortunately I am unable to go Karachi. I felt terrible letting down the organizers but it’s beyond my control. I had offered to do the sessions via Skype to make sure one can participate and the intent, with which the Lit Fest is organized, is upheld.”

Nandita has been embroiled in a slug-fest of sorts with her colleague Anupam Kher over the supposed denial of a visa by the Pakistan government for his visit to the literary festival. Nandita got Anupam agitated when she said he should have had the ‘common sense’ to apply for a visa. To this Anupam retorted, “Ab mujhe Nandita Das se common sense sikhna hoga!”

Explaining her stance Nandita says, “As a firm believer of people-to-people initiatives, I want to be very clear that anybody’s visa being denied is detrimental to the process, especially of artists. At the time I made my comments, it was not clear if the visa was denied or Mr. Kher had not sent his documents in the first place.”

Nandita who did a Pakistani film Ramchand Pakistani on cross-border amity says, “For the moment let us assume that the Pakistan bureaucracy came in the way of this cultural event. As an artist I would separate this bureaucratic road-block from genuine efforts to strengthen friendship.”

The actress-activist feels cultural exchanges between the two countries must continue. “People’s intention and efforts to build bridges have to be separated from Government policies and positions. This perception of animosity helps no one and those of us who are in the public domain need to be responsible enough to not fan it.”

Reacting to Anupam’s tirade against those artistes who referred to him as the Indian government’s champion, Nandita says, “I was disappointed to hear what Mr. Kher had to say on television. If we dismiss those we disagree with as anti- nationals, we risk diminishing the possibility of dialogue and it invites shrill abuses.”

She won’t get rattled by efforts to portray her as not being nationalistic enough for not protesting enough when Anupam was denied entry into Pakistan. “I don’t feel the need to prove my nationality in public debates. My work, my life is reflective of my cultural and national identity and we have to draw a line between jingoism and nationalism. And I only want to reiterate that whenever the two countries have the possibility of artistic exchange we should do our best to enable them. Surely this sentiment is not any different than what the Indian government’s recent diplomatic efforts signal.”

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Nandita Dass opts out of Karachi Lit Fest but not for Anupam Kher

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