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'Freedom of speech' vital in progressive society, says Nandita Das

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NEW DELHI: Three short films made by renowned filmmakers Sudhir Mishra, Nandita Das and Ram Madhvani on meaningful subjects marked the India Today conclave on its closing day in Mumbai. India Today Group editorial director Kalli Purie said the films had been commissioned by the group to mark four decades of its existence.

Nandita Das said: "Freedom of expression is needed for any society to be progressive else we will go back in time if there are no diverse views or analysis, if a child cannot ask questions."

The three films addressed poignant and almost dark issues as compared to the power play in politics to the bloodshed of the Partition.

The 30-minute-long screening began with Mishra’s “Life Support” that revolves around the play of power in politics with three protagonists. "It doesn't show anyone in particular; it's about power and its sad stories," said Mishra. Explaining his film in which a young politician and "heir apparent" of a political party condones his father's killing ordered by a powerful politician, he added, "There are people who have compromised. We don't have an answer to everything and that's the power of a story, it's all about many things."

Das's film was on celebrated Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, “In Defense of Freedom”. The film explores the need and importance of freedom of expression, as Manto questions why he should not write about the not-so-pleasant things in society. Through Manto's life and preachings, Das emphasizes the need for freedom of expression in our society as well. "Manto is still so relevant even after all these years," she said. "In any democratic or progressive society, freedom of speech, although ambiguous to define, should be cherished," she added.

Even as Nandita's film drew attention to the freedom to express, the last film screened brought back to public memory the pain of the Partition. In his film “This Bloody Line”, filmmaker Ram Madhvani tells the story of Mohamed Ali Jinnah and the Partition and the fact that the Radcliffe Line led to the biggest mass migration in the history of mankind. He used poignant videos and pictures from the Partition of filled trains carrying people to their new country, of assaulted and injured women and children. "Till today, this line makes us bleed" said the concluding message. "This film is a reaction to the sadness and anger we feel," he said.

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