Thaakoor’s arrest has triggered an old debate about government grants and enraged the netizens, who asked the government to go after loan defaulters instead of artists
Police arrested poet and filmmaker Tokon Thaakoor yesterday, on October 25 as a court issued a warrant in a Compliant Registered (CR) case against him.
According to sources, Tokon Thaakoor received a government grant in 2013 to make a film based on Shahidul Zaheer's short story Kaanta. He took Tk13 lakh from the Ministry of Information out of Tk35 lakh of the government grant, but allegedly did not do any work on the film over the last seven years.
Thus, the Ministry of Information filed a case against the filmmaker for embezzling government funds.
Contrary to the charges against him, an old New Age article from September 23, 2019, reported that the shooting of Kaanta had ended and the film was already in the post-production phase. The director told the paper that Kaanta would hit the theatres in December, 2019, but that ultimately did not happen.
Thaakoor’s arrest has triggered an old debate about government grants and divided the netizens with many pointing out that the government should go after loan defaulters instead of artists. Others were not so keen to absolve Thaakoor of the charges brought against him.
Notable director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki sided with Tokon Thaakoor and shared frustration regarding his friend’s arrest. “I am not saying, one should not submit a film which received the government grant in a timely manner. But so many unexpected incidents can slow the process down. What about the irregularities in the banking sector? What about the people who are roaming free after looting crores from the public? Why is the government not going after those criminals?” he wrote.
Filmmaker Tasmiah Afrin Mou also condemned the director’s arrest and asked why the Ministry of Information did not take the fact that the shooting of Kaanta has already ended into consideration.
Artists, journalists and writers took to Facebook and defended the director. They demanded his immediate release.
A group of netizens was however critical of the Kaanta director. They defended the government’s right to regulate government grant-receiving films, and said that the director was out of line by failing to comply with the rules and complete the film in seven years. Film activists also took this opportunity to resurface the debate around national film grants.
The selection of films which get the grants has been highly controversial in the past. Artists, distributors, netizens complained on Facebook that the grants are being given to ‘incompetent, inexperienced and commercial-minded’ people. They alleged that the selection process is rife with cases of nepotism, bribery, fraud and corruption.
Tokon Thaakoor’s debut feature film Blackout was released in 2006 and his second directorial venture short film Rajputtur, released in 2015, was funded by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.