Petition Closed

The jury of the National Film Awards in India this year decided to disqualify a beautiful film, Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare (which translates to ‘On the other bank of a river unseen’), as "not Assamese", even though the film had already been certified as Assamese by the official censorship authority in India. The jury, without authority, decided to make this unfair and arbitrary assessment about the language of the film and removed it from consideration for the awards.

This decision is an outrage to all people who value fairness and believe in the sanctity of the process for the prestigious National Film Awards. It is not for the jury to question the language of the film, that has already been established by competent authority, but it is their solemn duty to fairly judge the merits of the film for awards. The jury failed to perform this duty they were entrusted with. The poor reasoning to arrive at this decision is also a slap on the face of Assamese people and the Assamese language, in its role as one of the official regional languages of India.

This unfair decision needs to be rejected and the film needs to be judged again as an Assamese film for the awards based on its merits. This petition is to make that request of Honourable Ms. Ambika Soni, the Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.

Please review the petition letter, which has much more detail about the issue, and sign it by April 15, 2012 to show your support. Please inform your friends as well through email, facebook, and twitter, using the links for the same on this page.

Thanks,

Wahid Saleh and Satyajit Nath

For a Fair National Film Awards Jury

Letter to
Union Minister, Information & Broadcasting, Government of India Honourable Ms. Ambika Soni
Honourable Ms. Ambika Soni,
Union Minister, Information & Broadcasting,
Government of India.

Subject:
Reject National Film Awards jury decision on 'Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare'

Honourable Madam Minister,

We write to you to protest the decision of the jury of the National Film Awards in India this year to disqualify a beautiful film, Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare (which translates to ‘On the other bank of a river unseen’), as "not Assamese", even though the film had already been certified as Assamese by the official censorship authority in India. The jury, without authority, decided to make this unfair and arbitrary assessment about the language of the film and removed it from consideration for the awards.

This decision is an outrage to all people who value fairness and believe in the sanctity of the process for the prestigious National Film Awards. It is not for the jury to question the language of the film, that has already been established by competent authority, but it is their solemn duty to fairly judge the merits of the film for awards. The jury failed to perform this duty they were entrusted with. The poor reasoning to arrive at this decision is also a slap on the face of Assamese people and the Assamese language, in its role as one of the official regional languages of India. This unfair decision needs to be rejected and we request that the film be judged again as an Assamese film for the awards based on its merits.

Here are the key reasons why it is impossible to understand how the jury decided to term the film as “not Assamese”:

1. The film has been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification of India as an Assamese film. As a side note, the film also has a Hindi version (titled ‘As the River flows’) but that version was not in consideration by the jury

2. The film is produced as an Assamese film by a Government of India agency, the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), along with its Hindi version

3. The story of the film is based on Assamese society and geo-politics. It is set in the famous river island of Majuli on the Brahmaputra in Assam. For details of the plot of the film, please visit the blog of the film maker, Bidyut Kotoky, at http://bidyutkotoky.com. Although the blog is designed mainly for the Hindi version of the film, it provides good insight into the story which is the same in both the Assamese and Hindi versions

4. Since the story has deep relevance to Assamese society, three artistes with deep ties with Assam - Victor Banerjee, Zubeen Garg, and late Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, have made significant contributions to the film

5. The majority of the dialogue of the film is in Assamese. Non Assamese speaking actors in the film, like Naved Aslam, Bidita Bag, Sanjay Suri, Nakul Vaid, and Raj Zutshi, had to learn to speak their lines for the film in that language. A minority of the dialogue in the film is in Hindi and in English, because the story and the character demanded it

Based on reports, the decision to reject the film was taken due to the opinion of the ten non-Assamese members of the jury who concluded that it is not an Assamese film, despite the protest of the lone Assamese member of the jury!

In press reports, the jury has claimed that one of its reasons to term the film “non Assamese” is that parts of the film were shot outside Assam. By that reasoning, half of the Hindi films produced in Bollywood currently would have to be termed French, Italian, Spanish, Malay, Arabic, and English!

Another reason, in press reports, is that the chairperson of the jury claimed that 60% of the language used in the film is English. This is bewildering since the film is “out and out Assamese”, quoting the respected Assamese film maker, Jahnu Barua, in his reaction to the jury’s decision. “I have watched the film myself. There are a few Hindi dialogues in the movie but 70 per cent of the movie is in Assamese. What is surprising is that it is not for the jury to judge the language of a film,” he said.

Legendary actor, Victor Banerjee, who played an important role in the film, is also livid at this injustice and sent a strong SMS to various journalists and people across the country. The text of his SMS is reproduced in the Enclosures section below.

Numerous print and digital media also carried reports about the protests against this decision of the jury. The references to these reports are also listed in the Enclosures section below.

Overall, we believe that rejecting the film as "not Assamese" is completely unfair and contrary to the overwhelming data described above. The jury demonstrated very poor judgement in its decision to disqualify the film from consideration for the awards.

We respectfully request that you revert this decision of the National Film Awards jury, instruct the jury to reconsider the film on its merits, and provide a full accounting of its findings, so as to restore the public trust in the National Film Awards process and give 'Ekhon Nedekha Nodir Xhipare' the fair chance that it deserves at the National Film Awards.

Sincerely,

[Signatory to this online petition listed below]


Enclosures:

(A) References to press reports

* Victor Banerjee lashes out at national awards
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bollywood/news-interviews/Victor-Banerjee-lashes-out-at-national-awards/articleshow/12302954.cms

* Victor Banerjee upset with National Awards jury
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/victor-banerjee-upset-with-national-awards-jury/240604-8-66.html

* What does it take to be Assamese?
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120318/jsp/frontpage/story_15264296.jsp

* Something definitely wrong with National Awards jury: Jahnu Barua http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_something-definitely-wrong-with-national-awards-jury-jahnu-barua_1659623

* Something definitely wrong: Victor, Jahnu on Nat Award jury
http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/regional/something-definitely-wrong-victor-jahnu-on-nat-award-jury_107238.htm

* Jury dismisses Assamese film as ‘not-Assamese’ & Assam is quiet
http://www.sentinelassam.com/mainnews/story.php?sec=1&subsec=0&id=111459&dtP=2012-03-24&ppr=1#111459

* The Curious Case of Ekhon Nedekha Nadir Xipaare
http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=758063
http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/the-curious-case-of-ekhon-nedekha-nadir-xipaare/981765.html
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_the-curious-case-of-ekhon-nedekha-nadir-xipaare_1670048
http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/showbiz/others/curious-case-ekhon-nedekha-nadir-xipaare-633
http://theshillongtimes.com/2012/04/02/the-curious-case-of-assamese-movie-ekhon-nedekha-nadir-xipaare/

* Ent-Film-Controversy 2Lst
http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/entfilmcontroversy-2lst/981761.html

* Controversy on National Awards
http://www.namasthetelangaana.com/EnglishNews/article.asp?category=27&subCategory=3&ContentId=81653

* The Mystery Behind Assamese Movie “Ekhon Nedekha Nadir Xipaare”
http://www.northeasttoday.in/our-states/assam/the-mystery-behind-assamese-movie-%E2%80%9Cekhon-nedekha-nadir-xipaare%E2%80%9D/

(B) Text of Victor Banerjee's SMS to journalists
QUOTE
I am flummuxed by the sheer absurdity of a National Jury watching an Assamese language film, Directed by an Assamese, Shot in Assam and then proclaiming it "not Assamese". The entire nation is rather ignorant about the northeast and it is ridiculous circumstances like the one Bidyut Kataki is confronting today that helps me understand why the northeast is up in arms, wanting for decades, to sever ties with the rest of India. Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, Arunachal and even Sikkim and Darjeeling, are just curiosity pieces of primitive tribal peoples who provide a circus of amusement to people in Delhi who are bogged down by the OB-casteism, Fodder and Tele Scams and perpetuation of corruption at all levels of sport, politics, and now culture. I am ashamed at high handed arrogance of ignorance of a jury that has no business calling itself "national". "As the river flows" is an important Assamese film with a message for all to ponder upon.

So what would I like to see done about it, I'm being asked. Well, :))

Set rhinos and wild water buffalos on those members of the jury whose constipated vision need a socio-cultural suppository shoved into them.
UNQUOTE

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