‘Third Eye Blinks!’
(Afternoon Daily | August 12, 2004)

"The Third Eye, according to Indian mythology, symbolises a hidden power and potential unleashed on the world for the good of human society. In the context, Third Eye, the title of the festival, aptly describes the power of Asian Cinema," says the press brochure of the Third Eye Asian Film Festival, which is slated to be held in Mumbai from August 21 to 28. But the latest developments suggest that the Third Eye has blinked or worse still clamped shut. How?

Originally a package of Tibetan films was to be screened at the Festival. 'Kundun', 'Seven Years in Tibet', 'Little Buddha', 'Himalaya' and 'The Cup' were part of the festival lineup. However, sources state that though the Tibetan film package will be presented at the weeklong festival, there will be two crucial deletions.

Martin Scorsese's 'Kundun' and Jean Jacuques Annaud's 'Seven years in Tibet' are the two films that have been dropped by the festival committee. The screening of the other films will carry on as scheduled. It is learnt that the two films will not be screened as a result of direct interference on the part of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. According to Festival Director Sudhir Nandgaokar, "This will bring bad publicity to the festival." Sources inform that the Chinese Embassy has specifically asked to chuck the two films because out of the entire selection, 'Kundun' and 'Seven Years in Tibet' are the only films that could cause any discomfort or dent the Chinese propaganda machine. Ironically, 'Kundun' has had various public screenings across the city as also the country and 'Seven Years in Tibet' has been features on the satellite channel HBO.

When asked whether the Festival was under an obligation to stop the screenings, Mr. Nandgaonkar candidly stated that the films will not be shown as a result of pressure from the Chinese Embassy. It is unsure if the Chinese Embassy did in fact get in touch with the Indian counterpart on this matter, or has been meddling behind the government's back and in effect interfering with the internal affairs of another country.