People demonstrate demanding release of comedian

Published On: June 13, 2019 06:00 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, June 13: The general public from all quarters have demanded the release of stand-up comedian Pranesh Gautam, who was recently arrested for posting a 'foul-mouthed' critique of the movie Bir Bikram 2 on Youtube.

Civilians from all walks of life protested in the capital on Wednesday demanding the immediate release of the comedian deeming his arrest as an act of curtailing freedom of expression. In the protest rally, people walked from Pulchowk to Maitighar via Thapathali with their mouths covered in a symbolic protest signifying the restriction of freedom of expression.

Netizens across the nation have largely condemned the arrest of comedian Gautam after the video was uploaded on Youtube on May 22 through Meme Nepal's Youtube channel, harshly criticizing the movie. The general public has been so stuck with the issue that #FreePraneshGautam tag became the trending list on social media including Twitter on Wednesday.

Comedian duo Pranesh Gautam and Aadarsha Mishra were arrested on June 7 and were sent to judicial custody after Milan Chamling Rai, the director of the movie, filed a case of extortion against the comedian and popular Facebook page Meme Nepal. Comedian Gautam alleged that the movie has been copied from popular Bollywood movie Sholay.

According to the Metropolitan Police Crime Division (MPCD), director Chamling had lodged a police complaint claiming that the video makers released the video after the director denied to pay Rs 15,000 to the Facebook page. Investigating officers from the division told Republica that the director had produced a screenshot to back his claim.

However, it has come to light that the screenshot of the conversation between Chamling and the Facebook page only contained the details about the promotion of any movie through the page.

“After he asked us what was the rate for promotion of a movie we had just replied the rate,” Adarsha Mishra, an administrator of the page, told Republica, adding, “The administrators of the page have never asked for a ransom from him.” The page has already published a screenshot of the conversation.

With the claim of extortion, Chamling has resorted to diverting the case to another issue.

Director Chamling told Republica that the film team has already made a truce with arrested Gautam and that he has accepted his mistake.

Meme Nepal, however, has refuted his claim. “Filmmaker Chamling has been spreading rumors that he has made peace with Gautam and he has accepted his mistake,” Mishra told Republica, “We were with Gautam till Tuesday evening and Chamling had not made any contact.”

Over 1.5 million people had watched the video posted by Gautam on YouTube before it was removed after complaints from Chamling. But as the issue drags on, both Chamling and Gautam have been receiving support as well as criticism from the netizens.

Some netizens say that it is a comedian's job to make fun and criticize whatever is out there in public, while others feel that the movie director has the right to get annoyed by Gautam's video. Those taking the comedians' side in this controversy believe that the comedians have the right to exercise their “freedom of expression” as per the Constitution of Nepal.

Meanwhile, the ten associations of filmmakers in Nepal issued a joint statement on Wednesday condemning the video uploaded by Meme Nepal. In the statement, the associations have claimed that the video has made a negative impact on the Nepali film industry.

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