In an attempt to show sign of some kind of understanding of the situation, Deepa made changes to her script, but not without great reservations. The crew assembled in the first of what would be many meetings to discuss what would happen to the production of the film. There were never any arrests made over the vandalism that the film sets suffered when the protests began, yet Deepa Mehta was threatened with arrest for aiding an attempt at suicide and was forced to leave Varanasi. This had been done for Water, but the local government withdrew location permits citing that law and order could not be guaranteed. The local government stated they would not consider reissuing the permits for another three weeks, knowing that the finances of the film could not maintain an idle production for that long. We were forced to evacuate the location. The first was Fire, a story of two middle-class women drawn together in search of the warmth that their loveless marriages lacked.
During this time, I have been involved with a number of good and bad Australian and American films. I am a film technician, not a writer, but my recent experience in India made me realize that we are extremely lucky to have the freedom of expression that we do in this country and I would like to think that the story of Water would make people ponder this for a moment. In silence, we sat on the steps of the District Magistrate building clutching copies of a letter addressed to the government expressing our disappointment with their lack of support. The onscreen lesbian relationship between the women angered many in India. The following day we were greeted with the news that 2, protesters had stormed the ghats, destroying the main film set, burning and throwing it into the holy river. Perhaps it was not my fight to pursue. The District Magistrate declared that he was prepared to arrest the crew if filming took place. With this information in mind, I believed working as a clapper loader on a film to be directed by a woman of such courage would be an interesting experience. The west refuses to acknowledge our achievements in any sphere, but is only interested in our snake charmers and child brides. Over the next few days, Deepa would fly to Delhi to meet with the Minister of Information and Broadcasting to clear the contents of the script again. The budget was tight; financing had come mostly from one Canadian businessman. The second film, Earth, is a love story encompassing conflicting religions and politics between India and Pakistan. Six hours later, it was determined that the riots were a myth. Day one, the crew was delayed in leaving for location by rumors of a 10,strong protest being held at the ghats. The head of the RSS approaching press with statements to support this: Instead we were drawn into something that would question our rights of expression and freedom of speech through threats of violence, powered by not entirely related political motivations. In addition, the director and her partner, the executive producer, had mortgaged their home in Canada to provide extra funding. The Indian government had in fact revealed itself to be inclined toward supporting the protesters. This had been his sixth suicide attempt, and this was the reason given for closing the film down. The crew were escorted to location by anti-riot squads armed with water cannons, smoke bombs, tear gas, four battalions of the Rapid Action Force, and almost police. Is it more important to get a little of the idea out rather than none at all? The RSS claimed that the world did not need to hear the problems of widows in India, arguing that Deepa Mehta had been poisoned by western influences and was simply looking for a story to sell to the world. After three days of waiting, Deepa returned from Delhi with permission again granted to make her film. The answer is simple: Protesters burnt effigies of Deepa Mehta, and threats to her life began. The chief minister of Madhya Pradesh had no qualms about doing this, admitting that his invitation was motivated less by an interest in filmmaking than by his desire to rebuff the RSS and BJP. There I was in India, sitting on the steps of this government office, clutching my piece of paper, fighting for the first time for the right of freedom of expression.
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