I caught up with Fahrenheit9/11 eventually; at a time when George W Bush has barely a few weeks to go at the White House. Ironically, the film opens with the inagural of the Bush presidency in 2001. Placcard carrying crowds are seen pouring onto the streets of Washington DC to pelt eggs at the Bush limo.
A scathing indictment of the Bush presidency, Fahrenheit9/11 is so provocative that one wonders how the movie came to be screened at all. As I watched film maker Michael Moore taking the mickey out of the Bush administration, I wondered if such blatantly anti-establishment movie would be possible in India.
Remember Kissa Kursi Ka ? And the fate the movie met during the Indira Gandhi regime ? Sanjay Gandhi did not take kindly to the film’s portrayal of politicians. Kissa Kursi Ka was not just refused censor’s certificate; all available prints of the 1977 movie were confiscated and destroyed. More on it, later.
Fahrenheit9/11 is a well made documentary, containing archive footage tracing developments in the Bush White House since 9/11. The pace is racy, the narrative, engaging and entertaining. The political stuff is extensively researched, and for the benefit of nit-picking critics, the film maker provides on the web line-by-line factual back-up citing the source of film’s script and footage.
In the wake of 9/11 a common question people asked of others was what they were doing when New York’s World Trade Centre got hit by a hijacked plane. I was then in Mysore, worried over my travel plans to the US, in the wake of grounding of all planes. I was due to leave for San Francisco, but got stuck at Bangalore for days.
During the shutdown of the US airports, the film points out, the White House approved Saudi flights carrying the Bin Laden family (of which there were 44 members in the US then). Such special treatment seemed glaring, considering that 15 of the 19 hijakers were Saudi nationals.
Where was President Bush when 9/11 happened ? In Florida, addressing children at E Booker Elementary School. When an aide conveyed the news the commander-in-chief of the US forces, not knowing how to cope, and with no one to tell him what to do, decided to carry on with the photo opportunity, reading out for the school kids a story from a book,titled,’ My Pet Goat’.
Michael Moore sure can turn political provocation into a fine art. Kissa Kursi Ka wasn’t known for its production value. Its producer Amrit Nahata was no Michael Moore. A senior government official, Mr S M Murshad, who was among the few who saw the film wasn’t particularly impressed. He wasn’t in favour of a ban, for it would give the film ‘notoriety value’. Besides, the film was so badly made that it would die a natural death at the box office.
Recalling the episode that happened during the Emergency, Mr Murshad who was then joint-secretary in I & B ministry, wrote, “The film in question was refused a censor certificate by the Films Censor Board in Mumbai. It came up to me in appeal. I recommended that the film should be granted a certificate notwithstanding that it taunted the Gandhi family in no uncertain terms..” The official was over-ruled by V C Shukla, ‘Indira Gandhi’s hatchet man in the Ministry’. Mr Murshad, an IAS official of the West Bengal cadre was sent back to the state. As for Kissa Kursi Ka, ‘all copies (of the film) were allegedly burnt in the premises of the Maruti company by Sanjay Gandhi’.