Faraaz movie had premiered at the BFI London Film Festival on October 15, 2022, and will be released in India on February 3rd, 2023.
The mothers of two of the victims had previously argued before the single-judge bench that their “right to be left alone” outweighs the filmmakers’ right to commercially exploit the 2016 Dhaka terror attack.
Hearing a request to halt the release of director Hansal Mehta’s upcoming film Faraaz, which is based on the 2016 Dhaka terrorist attack, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked both parties – the film’s producers and the mothers of two girls killed in the attack – to consider resolving their differences.
The film will be released by T-Series and Benaras Media Works in association with Mahana Films. “To me, Faraaz is a story of our polarised times,” Hansal Mehta said in a statement reported by The Indian Express on January 9. I’ve attempted to explore the broader theme of violence and what really drives young, vulnerable minds to it through the 2016 attack on the Holey Artisan cafe, which rocked Dhaka.
Faraaz is a nail-biting thriller that takes place over one tense night, but it also aims to highlight the immense courage and humanity required to stand up to violence. Because the only way to defeat bigotry and the carnage it causes is to stand up to it.”
What exactly the Dhaka attack was?
According to eyewitness accounts, on the night of July 1, 2016, terrorists stormed the popular Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s posh Gulshan neighbourhood and kidnapped visitors. According to The Indian Express, an 11-hour terrorist siege that ended on the morning of July 2, 2016, killed at least 20 hostages out of a total of 29 lives.
One Indian, whose mother is one of the petitioners, was among the hostages killed, as were nine Italians, seven Japanese, and one American. The operation also claimed the lives of two police officers and six terrorists, one of whom was apprehended. Thirteen hostages, including one Argentine, two Sri Lankans, and two Bangladeshis, were rescued.
Based on a survivor who spoke with local TV channel ATN News at the time, the gunmen ordered restaurant workers to turn off the lights and draped black cloth over closed-circuit cameras after initially firing blanks. He and others, including kitchen staff, were able to flee by running to the roof or out the back door.
Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain, 20, attended the American school in Baridharawere, Dhaka, according to The Indian Express. He is the grandson of Latifur Rahman, chairman of Transcom Group, and Shahnaz Rahman, and the younger of two sons of Eskayef Bangladesh Limited managing director Simeen Hossain and Muhammad Waquer Bin Hossain. He was a student at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States.
The two women, the mothers of Abinta Kabir and Tarishi Jain, first approached the Delhi High Court last year, asking for an interim order preventing the film’s release. The women claimed a violation of their right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution, claiming that the film may portray their daughters in “a bad light,” which would be difficult for them because they would have to relive the traumatic incident.
They contended that their “right to be left alone” outweighed the filmmakers’ right to commercially exploit the incident at the expense of the mothers’ constitutionally protected fundamental rights.
What were the arguments made in front of the single-judge bench?
The women had a reasonable fear that the “film has been created to show Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain as a protagonist or something of the attack, as the film has been named after Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain,” according to the order.
According to the order, if such a depiction is made, it will be completely false because the mothers were among the first witnesses to meet the survivors after the attack and were well aware of the series of events. The order states that glorifying or exaggerating one victim of the attack would be a gross misinterpretation of facts.
The film’s producers insisted before the single judge that the names of the girls were not used in the film. It was argued that a disclaimer stating that the film is a “fictional work inspired by a true incident” was included. The filmmakers claimed that Faraaz’s family had already approved the use of his name in the film.
It was argued that the majority of the film is based on the incident that occurred on July 1, 2016, and there is no mention of Faraaz’s friendship with the two girls prior to the incident. “Furthermore, the two daughters’ characters have been fictionalised. “The film in no way insensitively depicted the incident in which the two plaintiffs’ daughters were unfortunately also involved,” the order states.
The producers also claimed that information about the incident was already in the public domain because it was extensively covered in both Bangladeshi and global media and was the subject of numerous lengthy literary pieces as well as audio and video programmes.
What decision did the single-judge bench make?
In its October 14 decision, the single judge bench of Justice Neena Bansal Krishna ruled in favour of the makers, holding that the right to privacy in the case would be that of the two daughters who died in the attack. The court noted that the right to privacy is not inheritable by the girls’ mothers, noting, “As already discussed above, Right to Privacy is essentially a right in personam and is not inheritable by the mothers/legal heirs of the deceased persons.”
On the issue of defamation, the court was of the view that defamation is a “personal right and is not pre-emptive in nature”. The court ruled that defamation can only be claimed after the film has been released. “Defamation of a deceased person does not give rise to a civil or common law right of action in favour of the surviving family or relatives who are not themselves defamed… “In this context, it should be noted that, while emotional trauma may be relevant as a component of defamation, it cannot be the sole basis for making a prima facie case in favour of the plaintiffs,” the court concluded.
This same court also observed that the film’s producers explained and assured that the names of the two girls were not used and that their identities were not revealed in any way. The Court observed that the ‘right to be left alone’ is an aspect of the Right to Privacy, but it cannot be called a right to be left alone in this case, especially since the two plaintiffs are barely mentioned in the entire film. The women then appealed the decision to the High Court’s division bench.
What occurred in the High Court?
Senior advocate Akhil Sibal argued before the division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Talwant Singh on Tuesday that the makers approached the issue with complete insensitivity without seeking the mothers’ consent and also denied showing them the film.
According to Sibal, the single judge ruled that because the girls are no longer alive, there is no right to privacy in relation to their rights, which is incorrect. When the bench remarked that the incident must already be in the public domain, Sibal said, “We know of the nature of the medium. They (mothers) prefer to be alone and do not want their privacy invaded.”
He also cited an affidavit filed by a viewer who saw the film when it was screened in London last year and argued that the information on the girls is “thinly disguised,” contrary to what the filmmakers claimed before the single judge. “My only concern is that we filed an affidavit in which parents are reflected, their names are thinly disguised, and images of the girls are also shown, which contradicts what the single judge was told.”
The HC stated that the “right to privacy” refers to issues that occur within the confines of a home. Unfortunately, these incidents must have received a lot of attention. “Not a single holocaust that mankind has ever witnessed has been captured on film.”
The bench then asked the parties to sit down and try to resolve the matter. The HC further told advocate Sheyl Trehan, appearing for the makers, that the mothers viewing the movie will not “in any manner affect the outcome of the proceedings” and would rather only “alleviate their fears that their daughters are not depicted in a bad manner”. Trehan then stated that her clients are open to the idea of sitting down with the mothers to attempt to resolve the issue.