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Activist sues anti-autism drama ‘Ghotona Shotyo’

CMV, Ghotona Shotto, Ghotona Shotyo, Afran Nisho, Mehzabien Chowdhury, Helal Khan, SK Shahed Ali Pappu, Bangladesh Nationalist Party

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Activist sues anti-autism drama ‘Ghotona Shotyo’

A case has been lodged against the producer, director, and associates of the production of an Eid special tele-fiction titled “Ghotona Shotto,” (Ghotona Shotyo) which insensitively addressed children with special needs.

Bashir Al Hossain, 45, a specially-abled person from Gazipur, lodged the case, under the Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act, 2013, with Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Abu Bakar Siddique’s court on Wednesday.

The accused in this case are — Channel i Managing Director Faridur Reza Sagar, Channel i spokesperson Shykh Seraj, scriptwriter Moinul Shanu, director Rubel Hasan, actors Mehazabien Chowdhury and Afran Nisho, and the CEO of Ghotona Shotto production house Central Music and Video (CMV) Entertainment.

Advocates Rezaul Karim Siddique and Jibanando Chandra Joyonto are representing the plaintiff in this case.

All the witnesses in this case along with advocate Rezaul Karim Siddique are differently abled individuals.

The tele-fiction was enlisted as part of private television station Channel i’s Eid-ul-Azha special programs, and it was uploaded on drama production company Central Music & Video (CMV)’s YouTube channel on July 23.

CMV was founded by Helal Khan, a leader of the cultural front of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). Currently the company is run by Helal Khan’s confidante named SK Shahed Ali Pappu. Although Pappu claims to have bought the company from Khan, according to records available with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, the company was never sold to Pappu.

It tells the story of a couple, played by Afran Nisho as a driver and Mehazabien Chowdhury as a housemaid, who mischievously deceive their service-takers.

Later the tele-fiction showcases that the couple was bestowed with a child with special needs, wondering if their child’s condition is a result of their misdeeds.

After the telecast of the tele-fiction, Amrin Zaman, a mother, first addressed the issue on a Facebook live video.

A large number of audiences have since expressed their disgust on social media over the portrayed message, raising questions about the sensitivity of the makers towards the topic of children with special needs.

Amid the controversy, the fiction was then immediately taken down from CMV’s YouTube channel. The cast and crew have also publicly apologized across social media through a joint statement, published on both the actor’s and the director’s official Facebook profiles.

Channel i issues statement centering the TV fiction

In a statement, Channel i, leading private television broadcaster in Bangladesh said, they did not air the controversial portion of the TV fiction ‘Ghotona Shotto’.

The channel in its statement, which was issued on August 11, 2021 said:

  1. Channel i has purchased the broadcast right of the television fiction named ‘Ghotona Shotto’ from a production company named CMV [Central Music & Video] and aired it on July 23, 2021 at 2:30 pm,
  2. Channel i did not air the objectionable part of the drama, while CMV had uploaded the drama on its YouTube channel along with the objectionable part. Evidence of Channel i’s not airing the objectionable part of the drama is available with the TV content archivists in the country,
  3. As because Channel i had only purchased the TV airing right of the drama, it was not uploaded on the YouTube channel of Channel i,
  4. Production company CMV had uploaded the drama (with objectionable part) on their YouTube channel, for which Channel i cannot be held responsible,
  5. Channel i has always been respectful to specially abled children and their parents.

CHILD Foundation also filing case

Seeking justice for the children with special needs who were insensitively portrayed in the recently aired Eid-ul-Azha tele-fiction ‘Ghotona Shotto’ (Ghotona Shotyo), private humanitarian organization CHILD (Countrywide Health Initiative for Learning & Development) Foundation says that it will take legal action against the producer, director and associates of the production, reports UNB.

The legal initiative will be assisted by the Neuro-Developmental Disability Protection Trust (NDDT) and the Dhaka University Department of Communication Disorders, the organization said at a virtual press conference.

NDDT Trust Chairperson Dr Golam Rabbani, Managing Director Dr Anwar Ullah and Director Salma Begum, Dhaka University Communication Disorder Chairman Tawhida Jahan, Child Foundation Chairman Tahrin Aman, Co-Founder and Secretary General Anowara Aana Aman Aman and Barrister Shahedul Azam spoke at the webinar.

It was announced that the legal action against the fiction makers will be implemented on the basis of the Bangladesh governments ‘Rights and Protection of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013’.

Speakers at the press conference said that the tele-fiction ‘Ghotona Shotto’, aired on a private television channel as a special programme of Eid-ul-Azha and later released on its producer Central Music and Video (CMV)’s YouTube channel on July 25, has spread severe negative propaganda about the sensitive matter, which elevated the already existing superstitions, stigma and negative mindset regarding the children with special needs – especially in the rural area.

It was mentioned that the message given through the fiction has also insulted the responsible activities of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her worthy daughter Saima Wazed in building a friendly and cooperative, inclusive society for the people with special needs.

Directed by Rubel Hasan, the fiction sparked massive criticism after showcasing the story of a couple, acted by Afran Nisho as a driver and Mehazabien Chowdhury as a housemaid, who mischievously deceive their service-takers. Later it showcases that the couple was bestowed with a child with special needs, wondering if their child’s condition is a result of their misdeeds.

ACC and NBR to initiate investigation

According to media reports, National Board of Revenue and Anti Corruption Commission are going to launch investigation into the allegations of tax dodging by a number of drama artists. Several drama artists are accused of dodging income tax worth millions of takas every year.

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Ronju Sarkar is a Staff Correspondent of Blitz

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