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Artists should come forward to bring in greater tolerance: Mahesh Bhatt

Mahesh Bhatt

Allahabad: Renowned film maker Mahesh Bhatt today exhorted artists to “come forward and serve as a bridge between the government and the society” in the quest to foster religious tolerance and freedom of expression in the country.

“I was glad that during his ongoing foreign trip, the Prime Minister recalled that India is the land of Buddha and Gandhi. Now it is up to the nation to ensure that the legacy is not squandered, a danger of which is lurking in the atmosphere of intolerance that is prevailing right now,” Bhatt told reporters here.

Bhatt was here to watch a stage adaptation of “Saaraansh” – a movie that he wrote and directed and which received much acclaim and was also chosen as India’s official entry for the Oscars in 1985.

Bhatt also disapproved of the recent march taken out by Anupam Kher, whose wife Kirron is the BJP MP from Chandigarh, saying his effort “may have been aimed at asserting that the fears of intolerance in the country were exaggerated, but it gives an impression that the film industry is sharply divided over the issue”.

“Anupam, and other artists and creative persons need not get involved in a fight over whether or not India is an intolerant country. The fact is, there is never any harm in striving for greater religious tolerance, pluralism and freedom of expression. This can be brought about only when there is a dialogue between the society and the government,” he said.

“Society usually does not have the instruments to get engaged in a dialogue with the government over such issues. On occasions like these, Anupam and artists like him can perform a great national duty by serving as a bridge between society and government. I hope he does that and others join him,” Bhatt added.

Incidentally, Bhatt gave Kher his first major break in “Saaraansh” wherein the actor, who was then in his late 20s, had played a retired school teacher coming to terms with the death of his only son and won laurels for his performance.

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