Mumbai, 9th April 2017: Raj Amit Kumar’s provocative directorial debut, Unfreedom, starring Adil Hussain and Victor Banerjee, has recently released internationally by Netflix, making it one of the boldest and most controversial Indian films to release on the platform.
Unfreedom is a contemporary thriller based in a society torn apart by political, religious and sexual turmoil. Alternating between New York and New Delhi, the film combines two powerful stories about religious fundamentalism and intolerance. One of which follows a Muslim terrorist Husain (Bhanu Uday), attempting to silence a liberal Muslim scholar Fareed (Victor Banerjee). The other story is about a young woman Leela (Preeti Gupta), who defies her devout father Devraj (Adil Hussain) and escapes an arranged marriage because she is secretly involved in a taboo lesbian romance with Sakhi (Bhavani Lee).
Through these stories, the film creates a powerful portrait of the troubled times we live in and depicts the lengths to which the protagonists go in order to hold on to their strong and conflicting viewpoints on freedom, faith, family and love.
Unfreedom is based on an original story by Raj Amit Kumar and marks his directorial feature film debut. He has also produced the film under the banner of Dark Frames and co-written the screenplay with Damon J Taylor.
The film’s technical team comprises of Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty (Slumdog Millionaire) who has done the sound design for the film and was nominated for the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 63rd annual Golden Reel Awards. The film is shot by award winning cinematographer Hari Nair (Shutter, Kerala Café) and edited by Atanu Mukherjee, who debuted as a director with the acclaimed film, Rukh (2017).
Unfreedom was banned by India’s Censor Board of Film Certification, (CBFC) in 2015 (which was then headed by Pahlaj Nihalani) who ere of the opinion that the film will ignite unnatural (read homosexual) passions and incite rapes and communal violence in India. Initially, the film was under review by CBFC who wanted director Raj Amit Kumar to cut crucial elements from the film in order to be shown to the Indian public.
Not to be bogged down by their demands, Kumar appealed before Indian Government’s Information and Broadcasting Appellate Tribunal, (FCAT). And in response, the FCAT banned the film without any possibility of cutting or further appeals.
Later Kumar and his team ran a campaign for a year during which they did around 100 screenings of the film globally in India and U.S among other countries. The film was screened to immensely encouraging audience response in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Los Angeles and New York. Following this, the film was recently released internationally by Netflix.
Talking about the film’s release by Netflix, director Raj Amit Kumar said, “I am glad that Unfreedom finds such a popular platform like Netflix after the ban in India and the efforts of censorship guardians in India to stop the film. It also exposes the hypocrisy and divide between reality and fantasy of censorship system in India. There is no way they can control and censor content in digital age, yet, they try their best to choke filmmakers like me who have something relevant to say that makes them feel threatened.”
Elaborating on the film’s ban by CBFC and it being labeled as one of the boldest Indian films ever, Kumar said, “The boldness of something is always defined by what you are allowed to say or not in a society. The boldness of an artist is always defined by what others artist around him have not said or what they are not allowed to express. Thus, it is not the content in my film per say makes it bold, but it the context of a society in which it is told, it is the fact that we have become such a weak and conservative society where we are asked to shut up all the time. Our voices are being crushed unless we are chanting slogans that the powers to be and moral guardians are ok with.
And in today’s time our art is being crushed in much more violent ways than ever before. Journalists are getting killed, films are getting banned for slightest of transgressions and the whole mediascape is turned into a trumpet sound. Any other vision, voice, the expression has to be curtailed. So I guess it is the boldest film ever because I did not give a damn about anyone or anybody. I didn’t care and I don’t think I will care in future as well. Unless artists take that approach and risk their well being, we will soon be living in a world where everybody is frightened to say anything truthful.”
About The Director:
Raj Amit Kumar graduated in Masters of Arts in Cinema and Media Studies from City University of New York (CUNY) in 2006, where he received the George Custen Memorial Award for Academic Excellence. Kumar finished his Ph.D. coursework in Cinema and Media studies at Southern Illinois University (SIUC) before beginning work on his first feature film, originally titled Blemished Light, the script of which won the First Prize in Faculty Screenwriting Award at University of film and Video Association (UFVA) 2009.
Also a media academic, teacher, and writer, Kumar has taught cinema theory and history at both his alma maters, City University of New York and Southern Illinois University College (2005 – 2009) and his writings and research papers have been published and presented at various conferences.
In early 2012, Kumar established Dark Frames as a development and production company. Its primary goal is to develop and produce provocative independent films.
Unfreedom is produced by Dark Frames.