Screening of film on MF Husain by French filmmaker cancelled after VHP protests

Even after his demise, controversy continues to surround artist MF Husain. Recently, the screening of a film on him was cancelled in Chandigarh.

The film, 'The Barefoot Pilgrim', by French filmmaker Laurent Bregeat, was scheduled to be screened on June 2 at the Government Museum and Art Gallery by the city's Lalit Kala Akademi. However, following a "request'' by the members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to cancel the screening, the event was reportedly called off at the last minute.

"We at VHP have pledged to oppose the works of MF Husain across the country. This man maligned our gods and goddesses and showed them in nude forms, which is unacceptable. When we came to know that the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi is screening a film on Husain, we wrote a letter of protest to them, requesting the cancellation of the same," says Vijay Singh Bhardwaj, working presidentof VHP, Chandigarh. According to Bhardwaj, the letter was received by the Akademi's chairman, Diwan Manna, and after a meeting with the committee members, it was decided that the screening would not be held.

"It was a peaceful polite request to the organisers, that's all," says Bhardwaj, adding that at first, he thought Husain's paintings were being displayed.

"I did not know a film was being screened. Although I have not seen the film, our contention was that if it showed his works, then what? We will not let people see it," further added Bhardwaj.

Had the screening carried on as planned, Bhardwaj says the VHP would have used its full force to stop it.

Despite repeated attempts all day, Manna refused to take calls or make a comment.

Meanwhile, thespian Neelam Man Singh voiced her disgust and concern over this abrupt cancellation and attack on art. "It's a tough question to answer, as I cannot fathom the pressures and constraints of the organisers. But I'd like to say that we cannot buckle under such threats and or let someone dictate terms to us," says Neelam adding that in a democracy one has the right to freedom of speech and expression.

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