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Kissa Kursi Ka: The film that sent Sanjay Gandhi to jail

Nahata later remade the film with a new cast, which was released in 1978

Thursday April 11, 2019 0:07 AM, Archna Sharma , IANS

Sanjay Gandhi

Jaipur: Amid the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biopic, the release of which was stalled by the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday, IANS revisits another film that rocked the country during the Emergency.

Directed by Amrit Nahata, a three-time MP from Rajasthan, 'Kissa Kursi Ka' can be termed as the first political spoof in Indian cinema made in 1975, just before the declaration of the draconian Emergency in June.

Starring Shabana Azmi, Raj Kiran and Utpal Dutt, the film was a satire on the politics of Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi, making apparent references to the latter's Maruti car project.

However, after the Censor Board's revising committee sent the film for clearance to the Union government, a show-cause notice raising 51 objections was slapped on the makers of the film by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. By the time, the Emergency was declared.

Subsequently, all the prints and the master-print of the film were picked from the Censor Board office and brought to the Maruti factory in Gurugram (then Gurgaon) where they were burned.

Film Remake

Nahata later remade the film with a new cast, which was released in 1978.

The unreleased version of the film is remembered for marking the beginning of the end of Sanjay Gandhi, who had to go to jail facing charges of burning its prints.

'Kissa Kursi Ka' also emerged as a powerful tool at the hands of the Janata Party and eventually led to the debacle of the Indira Gandhi-led Congress in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections.

The Shah Commission established by the Janata Party government in 1977 to probe the excesses committed during the Emergency found Sanjay Gandhi guilty of burning the negatives of the film along with V.C. Shukla, the Information and Broadcasting Minister at the time.

Sanjay Gandhi, who was also accused of influencing witnesses, spent a month in Tihar Jail after being denied bail by the Supreme Court. Shukla was jailed for two years though the verdict was overturned later.

Nahata was a two-time Congress MP from Rajasthan. He joined the Janata Party after the Emergency and became an MP on its ticket in 1977.

Hailing from Jodhpur, he joined the Congress in 1962 and contested his first Lok Sabah elections in 1967 and won from Barmer. Nahata was re-elected from Barmer in 1971 after he defeated Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) heavyweight Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

In 1977, he became a Janata Party MP from Pali in Rajasthan after defeating Mool Chand Dagan of the Congress.

Known for his outspoken nature, Nahata did not even spare the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi about whom he once said: "India has got such a Prime Minister in the form of Indira Gandhi who has no trust in morality. For her, results are everything and to attain these results, any channel can be followed."

In his film career, Nahata directed three movies -- 'Sant Gyaneshwar' (1965), a religious biopic, 'Raton Ka Raja' (1967), a crime thriller, and the political satire 'Kissa Kursi Ka' (1975).

Nahata passed away in 2001 at the age of 72.

(Archana Sharma can be contacted at archana.s@ians.in)

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