Vivek Agnihotri: It all started with a tweet

By Vivek Agnihotri

Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri

Buddha wasn’t going anywhere.

Everyone had backed out of my film Buddha In A Traffic Jam. There was no money. Whatever I had, went into finishing it. Despite many awards, acclaim and powerful content, the powerful people, who claim to be messiahs of Indie films and champions of FoE (Freedom of Expression) wanted this film to die. I learnt that ‘Content is king’ is a myth.

I was fighting a battle. Alone.

Then Rohit Vemula committed suicide and Left leaders tried to turn it into a Dalit issue. Immediately after that Kanhaiya issue came into limelight. These two incidents reinforced my faith in film’s content. Whatever I had envisioned in the film few years ago was becoming true.

Buddha’s time had come.

Since distributors and studios were backing our regularly, I thought the best way would be to keep the film alive by screening it at few institutes. What could be better than JNU, which was at the centre of student politics and supposedly a Mecca for FoE. So, I wrote to Ira Bhaskar, Dean, Cinema studies, JNU.

Once. Twice. Thrice…

My DA Naireeta called her several times. Messaged her many times. She called back only once to tell her that ‘Mahaul theek nahi hai…’ When we explained to her why it was so important to show the movie now, she said ‘…will speak to faculty and get back’.

Budha in a traffic jam 3

A still from Buddha In a Traffic Jam

She never got back.

Her daughter, Swara Bhaskar was supposed to do a role in Buddha In A Traffic Jam but last minute she backed out. It was appropriate as she never agreed with film’s take on Naxal-NGO-Academia nexus. It was natural for me to connect the dots.

I gave up.

 Two days later, I read a tweet from a friend and a wonderful director Hansal Mehta informing that next day his film Aligarh, based on life of a gay professor, will be shown at JNU. I couldn’t believe it. Then I read more tweets confirming it. Which meant ‘Mahual’ for some films wasnt ‘kharab’.

It was time to act.

 That’s when I asked my music director Rohit Sharma to take Swara’s help (who is part of the band Swaang that gave music for the film) in convincing her mother. Swara’s boyfriend Ravinder Randhawa has been part of the same band and he offered to help. But they came back to tell me that they spoke to Ira but ‘mahaul’ is not good hence no film can be shown’. I could sense the partisan politics of a Leftist faculty. But I didn’t know anyone who could help me. 

So, in frustration, on my way to Bhuj, I wrote two tweets.

 Between 11-1130AM I got several calls from unknown phone numbers, while I took a short nap on smooth highway of Bhuj. At about 11.45 AM, Anupam Kher called me to find out why the media was calling him? I understood. I briefed him and mailed him all the documentary evidences. By 12.30 Rahul of X News broke it and by mid-noon all channels were showing how Buddha In A Traffic Jam was stuck in the JNU jam.

Calls started pouring. News channels rushed their correspondents to Bhuj for my bytes. Almost every channel, newspaper covered it in headlines. Only two channels (who have been extra vocal about JNU and FoE issue) never mentioned it – Barkha Dutt of NDTV and Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today.

On that day, when I stood at the salt panes of Bhuj, watching the sun set, I decided to make my voice heard and give life to ‘Buddha In A Traffic Jam’. I took out my phone and made a poster (below).

The poster made by Vivek on his phone

The poster made by Vivek on his phone while in he was in Bhuj

 I had found my Buddha.

 And I never looked back.

Here is the trailer of Buddha In a Traffic Jam

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