Bollywood and a section of social media have gone gaga over the Filmfare Awards being hosted for the first time in Assam. But the timing to shift Mumbai’s glitzy annual event to the troubled northeast couldn’t be more wrong. For the local people of Assam, it’s an eyewash.
Whether politicians and mainland media tell you or not, the fact is that all is not normal in Assam. Any observer will tell you that the decision to hold the Filmfare Awards is a ploy of the BJP government to distract the public from the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The government hopes that the wide coverage of the glitzy event will bury the voices chanting “CAA ami namanu (We won’t accept CAA).”
Two months since a musician was shot dead
Assam’s BJP government had in November 2019 signed a memorandum with the Times Group, the organiser of the Filmfare Awards. Owing to the media attention and the exposure that Filmfare brings with it, the BJP government expects Assamese to suddenly become happy and overwhelmed because the government itself has forgotten the five deaths in police firing during anti-CAA agitations that rocked Assam in December 2019.
It has also forgotten 17-year old Sam Stafford, a musician who was reportedly shot point blank by Assam Police. The state witnessed internet shutdowns, curfew, and deployment of more than 300 troops. All this took place under the watch of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, the man who identifies himself as a “son of Assam” and was part of the six-year Assam Agitation where over 800 people were killed.
No place for Assamese culture
Assam’s culture and heritage are an integral part of the Assamese identity, the same identity that is at stake because of the CAA. Sadly, the glitzy Filmfare Awards will in no way boost Assam’s culture, its heritage and its film industry. Local artists from Assam rarely find space in the mainland cinema industry. In fact, Assam has negligible representation in Bollywood’s flashy affairs.
The promotional videos of Filmfare Awards do not have any Assamese actor in the front; they instead have B-town celebs like Bhumi Pednekar, Ayushmann Khurrana and Karishma Tanna among others. What the BJP government fails to realise is that videos of Assam’s greenery in the backdrop, with a little Bihu music and few local dancers in the back won’t suffice for the isolation of the state’s film and cultural society.
If the Assam government really wanted to provide exposure to local artists, it would have taken concrete steps to develop the state’s infrastructure. It would have tried to ensure there are better screens available to the film industry and helped indigenous artists suffering from financial constraints.
Misuse of funds and facade of promoting tourism
CM Sonowal had tweeted in August 2019 that through this star-studded event, the government will promote Assam as a global tourism destination. But is Filmfare Awards the way to do that? Bollywood celebs will come to attend the indoor event and then return to Mumbai. Their past engagements with Assam-related issues have at best been futile.
The state government spent around Rs 2.37 crore for a single visit by Priyanka Chopra, who was appointed as the ambassador of ‘Awesome Assam’ in 2016, a contract that ended in July 2019. However, one can’t but compare Chopra’s work in Ethiopia as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and her significant lack of interest, immediate attention and empathy for the people of Assam during floods in July 2019.
For the upcoming Filmfare Awards, the Assam government has decided to spend between Rs 20-30 crore out of the Rs 300 crore state tourism budget. The rationale is not only questionable but also a portrayal of the government’s lack of vision for the state’s development. Every year, Assam incurs property loss worth crores of rupees because of floods. Thousands of people become homeless, animals die and greenery is destroyed in the erosions. With so much to work upon, it doesn’t help Assam to spend about Rs 30 crore on a private function that will bring little value to the state.
Assam lacks basic infrastructure, including sanitation, accommodation, and connectivity. The prices of the Filmfare tickets are ranged between Rs 10,000 and Rs 3 lakh, which average Assamese won’t be able to afford. It really needs to be asked then: Who is this Filmfare Awards really for?