Vivek Agnihotri

Indian director, screenwriter and author

Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri (born 10 November 1973) is an Indian film director, screenwriter, and author. As of 2019, he is member on the panel of Central Board of Film Certification.

Vivek Agnihotri in 2018


  • Talking about the massacre of Sikhs that took place in Delhi in 1984, Vivek Agnihotri said, “It’s (1984) is a dark chapter of Indian history. The way the entire Punjab terrorism situation was handled, was inhuman & it was purely from vote bank politics & that’s why terrorism was cultivated by the Congress party in Punjab.”
  • “But if history is taught to people, facts are told to people then people stand up & they seek justice & that’s when governments bend down.”

Urban Naxals (2018)

Vivek Agnihotri - Urban Naxals The Making of Buddha in a Traffic Jam (2018, Garuda Prakashan)
  • I didn't get up from the corner of my study couch until I discovered a unique and dangerous nexus between the Naxal mafia and middlemen disguised as intellectuals. Like Prasoon would have desired, I had inverted the pyramid of intellectuals. I had found the theme of the film: Intellectual Terrorists.
  • Little did Vanbala know that Naxalism is just a vehicle to take her from one hell to another hell.
  • I am utterly confused and tired. Everything is becoming clinical. I remember in 1985, a Leftist friend of mine had tried explaining the Naxal organizational structure to me, and finally exasperated, he’d said, ‘Trying to understand the Naxal movement is like peeling an onion. In the end, you will have only tears in your eyes and many disconnected and scattered layers of the onion.’
  • My pain? This was the pain of an Indian girl. These girls were mostly from Delhi and a few from Bangalore and Mumbai. Normally, the story of an Indian girl’s pain comes from the victims, survivors, or the feminists. A regular girl's suffering in her day-to-day life doesn’t ever feature in the national feminist narrative. They have been conditioned to accept it as part of living, as an everyday struggle. A part of the culture that wants to crush their dreams. Their aspirations. Their confidence.
  • Varavara Rao, referring to North-East insurgencies, stated on May 13, 2007: ‘This is a time for all revolutionary, democratic, and nationality movements, like the ones in Kashmir and the North-East, to unite and something will come out of this unity’.
  • It is 6 AM and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations. It is as it must be. I have reached a point where the film can beat about the bush or become explosive by exposing the skeletons that have been meticulously hidden from the public eye by the ‘ecosystem’.
  • I have to be a risk-taker and just tell the truth the way it is. Everything that bothers me. Everything that must be told. Fearlessly. My loyalty is to the inner vision. There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done.
  • I knew at that very moment that I would never be invited by Barkha on NDTV again and that is exactly what happened, but ‘Intellectual Mafia’ became legitimate jargon in social media.
  • But after this show with Barkha, they stopped taking my calls and till date, I don’t know what made an advanced negotiation stop without any further discussion. I found it strange and I had no idea then that suddenly I had created lots of Gudsa Usendis who didn’t want me to succeed with this film. They were using all their tactics to destroy me. I had only two choices: speak up or shut up. I spoke up.
  • I wrote another blog which again went immensely viral. With this blog on ‘Intellectual Mafia’, I went for a frontal attack and discovered an audience for my voice.
  • To cover up his illicit romances, rising corruption, the undercurrent of a revolt and massive defeat and humiliation by the Chinese, Nehru nurtured an ‘intelligentsia’ which justified his impractical economics and failed politics to the masses. The coterie of intellectuals he created was immoral. Historians know that whenever a king has surrounded himself with immoral thinkers, debauchery has begun. These short-sighted and opportunistic intellectuals justified ‘socialism’. Socialism has corruption in its very DNA. Nehru chose Big State over Big Market. More State-sponsored programmes meant inefficient system, red-tapism, favouritism, weaker economy, and corruption. It meant bigger disparity between masses and policy makers. More subsidies, doles, freebies meant more arrogance of rulers for they were the ones distributing alms. They became the givers. And us, the obliged masses, the takers. Thus, India arrived at State vs Masses. Corrupt vs Masses. Intellectuals vs Masses. Givers vs Takers.
  • Emergency was declared. Sanjay Gandhi took over. He created an army of morally corrupt, foreign-educated intellectuals with no track record. Their biggest strength was their unconditional loyalty to the Gandhi family. This tradition has continued. Loyalty over merit. Scheming over competence. Loot over contribution. Corruption grew. Guilt grew. Fear grew. With every scam, the family started making the intellectual wall bigger and bigger. Today this wall is full of scammers, crooks, agents, brokers, pimps, lobbyists, character assassins, land sharks etc. disguised as lawyers, journalists, NGOs, feminists, advisors, professors, socialists etc. Simply put, beneficiaries of Congress’s largesse.
  • Their strategy was simple. Moral domination. Nehru was a thinker. But Rajiv, Sonia, and Rahul are no intellectuals. They took a different route. They redefined morality. Secularism included. Anti-Congress was new immoral. Pro-Hindu became anti-Muslim. India was morally polarized. Morality is subjective. No one can say with guarantee what is pure morality. Masses were forced to choose between moral standards (Secularism, unity in diversity, inclusive etc.) and quality of life (development). People who wanted quality of life were made to feel guilty. Hindus who wanted to celebrate their religious freedom were made to feel guilty. Muslims who wanted to be part of mainstream India were made to feel guilty. They filled India’s psyche with fear, hate and guilt. They hated all indigenous, grassroots thinkers. They hated Sardar Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Chandrashekhar, P.V. Narsimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and now Modi. They are the land grabbers of Sainik Farms and Adarsh Societies of India. They run NGOs. They run media. They coin useless and irrelevant jargon to confuse the masses. They have designations but no real jobs. They are irrelevant NRIs who want us to see a reality which doesn’t exist. They want a plebiscite in Kashmir. They defend stone-pelters. They want Maoists to participate in mainstream politics. They want Tejpal to be freed. Yaqub to be pardoned. But they want Modi to be hanged. They are the hijackers of national morality. Secularism included. They are the robbers of Indian treasury. They are the brokers of power. They are the pimps of secularism. They are the Intellectual Mafia.
  • Reliance’s Big cinema had backed out as sponsors of MAMI as it was going through a massive financial crunch and there were rumours that it might shut down. ... From down-to-earth, genuine filmmakers like Shyam Benegal, the festival now was in the hands of corporates, critics, powerful people’s wives and their admirers. This was the year when MAMI officially transformed from a cinema lovers’ festival to a corporate club festival. I learnt this when I reached Chandan cinema with Pallavi for the closing award ceremony. We were official nominees, yet we were asked to sit in a corner seat in the tenth or twelfth row whereas the front rows were all occupied by commercial stars, star wives, their friends and people who are inconsequential to indie cinema. I was officially nominated; my wife Pallavi, besides being a senior actor is a national award winner and has been on the jury of the national awards, but nobody was ready to recognize those who did not make great press.
  • That day I saw the change with my own eyes. The MAMI organizers’ agenda wasn’t to promote these films anymore but to promote themselves. MAMI is just another club of the elites.
  • MAMI did two things for me: it gave the film the respectability it deserved, and it made me realize that my journey from here on was going to be lonely as Bollywood would only pull this film down. I had to find my audience. My market. My space. And my voice. All alone.
  • I remember Prime Minister Modi sharing his belief that the cultural space shouldn’t be ‘rajya aashrit’, government-dependent, as it takes away the voice of reason but it should be ‘rajya puraskarit’, awarded by the State. And without ‘fearless cultural evolution’, we would be a robotic society. He clarified that he never received any request from any ‘kalakar’ to meet him. ‘One day I saw on TV that Shri Munnawar Rana was saying that if PM invites us, we’ll go and tell him about our concerns, so I immediately called my secretary and asked him to invite Shri Rana at his convenience but till date no one has come. As a PM, I can’t go beyond this. Home Minister Rajnath Singhji has publicly extended the invitation, twice, but no one has responded.’
  • PM Modi gave an example of administrative intolerance. During the last days of the Vajpayee government, it was decided to build six All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The then health minister Sushma Swaraj named the Patna AIIMS Jaiprakash Narayan Institute, and similarly, the other five were also named after non-Congress national leaders. Vajpayee’s government lost the elections and the Congress-led UPA came to power. The UPA passed a Bill in Parliament and ‘banned’ these names to be used for any government project. That was the level of intolerance, he said.
  • He said emphatically, ‘If there is a loss to the country due to my mistake, please criticize me which you must… punish me… but just to oppose me or any other political rival, one shouldn’t forget national interest. This much intolerance is not good.’
  • He quoted how Galileo was nearly killed for opposing a belief but in India, when Charvak, an atheist, challenged the Vedas with logic and rejected the idea of reincarnation, he was given the title of ‘rishi’. Indian thought isn’t about tolerance, it’s about acceptance. He reminded us that societies which champion the cause of human rights are the ones who started two world wars whereas India has been the most peace-generating country in the global context. He said, ‘I have absolute faith that the tapasya of thousands of years can’t be destroyed by you and me.’
  • The evolved, enlightened and reasonable voice of India is absolutely absent from the national discourse. Who has divided us? Our society is divided into ‘overclass’ (as described by Michael Find) and ‘underclass’. Overclass has systematically siphoned off the national wealth, leaving the underclass to fight for two square meals. They either inherited or, in collusion with corrupt regimes, appointed themselves to positions of power and influence. With strong control over information, they kept the underclass in the dark. Their word was the final word. The biggest trick the overclass played on the underclass is keeping the hope alive that only they can get them out of this abject poverty. That we have problems and they have the solution. This is the same trick godmen and Satan play on us. This overclass with social, economic, and political clout has constantly shown disdain and contempt for the traditional social values and the underclass is now questioning their motives. If different ideologies, traditions and cultures co-exist and democracy finds popular favour, it’s not due to this narrow but influential elite. It’s due to the tolerance level of the underclass.
  • Two phenomena disturbed this status quo. One, the advent of social media, and second, the rise of Narendra Modi. With easy access to social and digital media, the underclass started questioning the authenticity of information provided by the overclass. Suddenly, their statements are scrutinized, their credibility is questioned, their sinister campaigns and lies are exposed. Their dilemma is that if they quit social media, they lose their relevance, and if they stay, they lose their credibility. This war of intolerance isn’t between HDL (Hindu Defence League) and MDL (Muslim Defence league). This isn’t between the left and the right. This is between the overclass and the underclass.
  • The intellectual hierarchy has been demolished. It’s a sad commentary that in the world’s largest democracy, writers’ protest has become a subject of jokes. The power-hungry artists, writers, academics, and media-persons in India waste a huge amount of time making political statements to hide behind their lack of intellectual stands. Michel Houellebecq wrote Submission, a strong political statement; he didn’t get press coverage for returning some award. The lustre is gone from our intellectual discourse. Secularism has lost its ideological currency. Artists, writers, activists are all suspect. Media czars have lost their access to the corridors of power and to people’s hearts. It’s the overclass’ space that has been taken over by the underclass. Their discomfort is with the new order where the others are also heard. Hence, the feeling of shrinking space. They are intolerant of this new phenomenon – the emergence of the underclass. They try to devalue this new, empowered underclass by associating it with Modi and, therefore, Hindutva, and that’s a grave mistake. The universe that was full of their voice has expanded to accommodate this new voice. This is what they call an attack on FoE and growing intolerance.
  • They work exactly like religion. Most religious books are based on fear. If you do this, that will happen. Nobody knows what ‘this’ or ‘that’ is. Social justice, if it has to come, will come only from a free and fair market. Why didn’t our liberals tell us this simple truth? When agendas, vote banks, and self-delusion take over, reasoning and sympathy are needed to keep up a common conversation. Without it, there is aggression, deafness, and an obsession with purification; hence the divisive politics of Boutique Liberalism. Boutique Liberalism is an Indian tragedy and a very damaging detour into the quicksand of communalism. Indian Liberalism has come to mean the colour opposite of saffron. That’s their failure. In a desperate attempt, their new mantra is – ‘We don’t care if you are a murderer, we want to know whether you are a liberal or a Sanghi murderer?’
  • A pattern is emerging. The Urban Naxals are installed in top institutes. Institutes which matter, which engineer the narrative. They are using these campuses as ‘intellectual training zones’. Like in the military, no point of view other than the combat is allowed to enter a soldier’s mind; in these campuses, no narrative other than theirs is allowed to pass through the minds of their intellectual soldiers.
  • [He said:] ‘Students belonging to SC/ST are attracted to Leftist propaganda because of the fraud theory of Aryan-Dravidian divide. Leftists have also misrepresented Indian epics like Manu Smriti and manipulated Indian history books to brainwash students. Students from Kashmir with a jihadi mentality easily get attracted towards Leftists as they both have a common agenda of weakening India.’
  • Both the worlds are so polarized. So different and contradictory. Yet, they have some things in common. Complexity, chaos, and conflict. And there is no place for any other narrative.
  • I open the newspapers but there is no news about the sabotage. It would have been national news backed up with protests if I were a Dalit or a Muslim or a Leftist or a liberal. Indian media, especially the metro-based English media, is the most dishonest institution of India. They are always in a hurry, their questions are statements, they have no courtesy, they are arrogant, rude and humiliating. They are always running late for something and, therefore, have no concentration. I am not talking about those hundreds and thousands of hard-working young girls and boys who are running from one breaking news to another. I am talking about those who instruct them to twist the news. Or who twist it themselves to further their or someone else’s agenda. And it’s no rocket science to understand the design of this parallel politics. They have become victims of their own agenda. For the last 70 years, English media has loved to paint any rightist organization, especially RSS, as regressive, uncivilized, aggressive and fundamentalist. Any organization connected with RSS e.g. ABVP is considered a party of goons. Whereas the student members of left-wing parties are considered rebels, revolutionaries, progressive and intellectuals. It’s more like a perception battle. The media has created a ‘group of somebodies’ and a ‘group of nobodies’. Those raising slogans against the State of India are painted as The Superiors and the ones singing ‘Vande Mataram’ as The Inferiors. This is the reason why people like to associate themselves with the left – The Superiors. Some people like to believe they are liberals. Liberals are those who do liberal things, not the ones who are against the right. If you look at the reporting of the Jadavpur University crisis after the seditious JNU incident, they always wrote ‘left-wing students’ and ABVP goons or outsiders. I realized this when a journalist asked me at JU, ‘What do you have to say about the presence of some outsiders, ABVP goons?’ I wondered, ‘Aren’t they students here? Aren’t they called Akhil Bhartiya VIDYARTHI Parishad? Vidyarthi means student.’ She was taken aback and said ‘But…no… yeah… But…’ I knew she had no answer, only biases. I again asked her, ‘Aren’t they students of the same university? What do they need to do to be recognized as students? Raise anti-India slogans?’ She got upset and left me to cover the protesting students – the real students, according to her.
  • Another problem with our media, intellectuals, elites and posh class is that they are always negative. Desperate. Insecure. All signs of a weak institution. They are scared that if the hungry masses get empowered, they will destroy their empires built on the blood and sweat of the same people. That’s why they constantly try to keep the masses deprived, and their very existence in fear. They never let the masses forget who is Superior and who is Inferior.
  • ‘But as soon as you enter a university, we witness a radical and communal face of Communism. Here, they propagate the weaknesses and evils of Hindu culture. They manipulate and twist ancient books to misrepresent them and provoke students. For example, they use Tulsidas’ chaupai, without mentioning the rest of the Ramcharitmanas, which is the real context. “ढोल गंवार शूद्र पशु नारी, सकल ताडना के अधिकारी.” Dhol ganvar shudra pashu nari, sakal tadana ke adhikari. ‘The above lines are spoken by the Sea Deity Samudra to Ram. When Lord Ram got angry and took out his weapon in order to evaporate the whole sea, the deity appeared and said the above lines in the context of boundaries that are created by God himself in order to hold his creations. ‘What Leftists do is that they very cleverly translate it literally in Hindi, ignoring the fact that Ramcharitmanas is written in Awadhi and the same word means one thing in Hindi and another in Awadhi. While the literal meaning of the line in Hindi is ‘Drums, the illiterate, lower caste, animals and women deserve a beating to straighten up and get the acts together’, its real meaning in Awadhi is different. In Awadhi, tadna means to take care, to protect. Whereas, in Hindi, the same word means punishment, torture, oppression. Samudra meant that like drums, the illiterate, Shudra, animals and women need special care and need to be protected in the boundary of a social safety net. In the same way, the sea also needs to reside within the boundaries created by God. And hence, Samudra gave the suggestion to create the iconic Ram Setu. ‘Here, Shudra doesn’t mean lower caste or today’s Dalit. It meant people employed in cottage industries.’ I remember there is a book by R.C. Dutta, Economic Interpretation of History, in which he has said that when the Indian economy was based on the principles of Varna, handicrafts accounted for over twenty-five percent of the economy. Artisans and labour who were involved in the handicraft business were called ‘Shudra’. If there was so much caste-based discrimination, why would Brahmins use their produce? Both Dutta and Dadabhai Naoroji have written that the terminology of ‘caste discrimination’ was used by the British to divide Indian society on those lines. Manish continues, ‘Like the British, they provoke young students to believe that Hindu scriptures are against Dalits and women and want them to suffer torture. Young students are emotional and passionate. They come here with the dream of changing the world. The concept of “revolution” attracts them and they get swayed by an illogical logic.’
  • They tried to shut me up by painting me as a part of the Hindutva campaign. But it was never about Hindutva. It’s neither about freedom of speech or intolerance. This is a tactic employed to protect their castles. They confuse the issue by bringing in lots of counter news and views. They quote laws. They try to make it look like an anti-RSS, anti-BJP issue. This isn’t about any of the above. It’s about a war against India. In 2010, there was an intelligence report that terror groups were making inroads in Indian universities. Everyone ignored it exactly like when intelligence said Ishrat Jahan was a suicide bomber. They believe in intelligence reports only when it suits them. This is India’s real threat.
  • The people who work as their mouthpieces also know very well but they succeed in spreading the lie as they have been controlling the narrative. We broke into it, challenged it and tried to introduce a new narrative. In the last six months, we have travelled in deep Bastar and recorded umpteen stories of Naxal barbarity and exploitation of Adivasis. The awareness the film created has given a lot of confidence to ex-Naxals who have been secretly wanting to share their stories with me. This is the victory of Buddha.
  • There may not be a place for the alternate narrative in Naxal-infested jungles, campuses, media and minds but in the world of real, rational and sane people, there is always a place for truth – the only narrative one needs to know. Satyameva Jayate.
  • Read the book because some people don't want you to.
    • Rahul Ronshan quoted in Urban Naxals
  • In India, people fight with all their might to kill an idea. The privileged people. The biggest problem with our establishment is that it has no space for a new idea. Art, cinema, and media haven’t developed enough to present new ideas for adoption. They are engaged in the politics of survival and therefore the outcome is mediocre and very often regressive. Most of the ideas are perceived as dissent. As disruption. As treason. Sometimes ideas like Naxalism, become violent and seditious. Despite being a democracy, in our country there is very little room for an alternate narrative. Whenever a child comes up with an innovative idea, parents, neighbours, teachers, and society crush the idea by telling him 'Kyon apna waqt barbad karte ho, yahan kuch nahin hone wala—don't waste your time.’ It can't be that all of them are idiots. They speak from their experience. 'Aise hi chalta hai … don't be stupid '…. Nothing is going to change… you don't know their power.'
  • I had spent years working on a superhero subject. It was a simple story, rooted in Indian mythology. And that was its biggest problem. There is a mindset in Bollywood that doesn't let Indic ideas flourish.
  • Somewhere in the race to survive in Bollywood, I started telling stories that I believed people wanted to hear, and not the ones I wanted to tell. The ones which ought to be told.
  • In Bollywood, people concentrate more on lifestyle, vanity and interpersonal equations than their craft. Though we made a big film, a Bollywood film remains only as big as its star. I was in Bollywood’s ‘big’ club.
  • That day I learnt that in the big fat world of Bollywood, the problem isn’t whether the pyramid should be inverted or not. The problem is there isn’t any pyramid.
  • I had given up on the Bollywood style of filmmaking. I had given up on mediocrity. I had resigned from Bollywood.
  • If it has any chance of getting financed, it’s going to be from someone outside of Bollywood. Bollywood can't finance this film for they have no clue about this dimension of India. It’s going to be somebody who is bold enough to disrupt the status quo of an agenda-driven narrative.
  • Sadly, Bollywood doesn’t invest in R&D. That’s why most of our films have no insights to offer. As a result, small, independent films have become the R&D lab for the Indian film industry. These films have to do an extraordinary research, for their only strength is transporting the audience to another universe, where they can feel and relate with the characters, their concerns, and their behaviour. In the mainstream films, the world is unreal, devoid of any real human concern, and the characters are like caricatures. Hence, this kind of cinema ends up becoming ‘Escapist Cinema’. Like a circus.
  • In Bollywood, stars don't support small, meaningful cinema. They are more inclined to support a leave-your-brains-at-home kind of cinema, if only it can be called cinema.
  • We have moved from nationalization to liberalization to globalization but our narrative remains stuck in the 1960s-70s. They hide their regressive ideology behind a fake humanitarian concern in the name of art or indie cinema. All film festivals are their properties. If you are not part of the club, you’ll never be invited to these festivals. David Dhawan, Rohit Shetty, Feroz Nadiadwala and other commercial filmmakers, whose one film makes more money than the films of all the filmmakers of this club put together, are never seen in such festivals. The media loves this club because it helps the media’s agenda. The media gets intellectual support and in return, they get good reviews. They have become the voice of Bollywood. When I started questioning this unfair equation, they started unfollowing me. Then they started blocking me on Twitter. And, slowly, from their lives.
  • Discrimination isn’t always gender, race or colour-based. The most damaging discrimination is of the mind and ideology. I was discriminated against by almost all my Bollywood friends, whom I used to hang around with because, like them, I also believed in a certain ideology but found it fake and alienated from reality, and elitist.
  • Everyone needs a villain and Narendra Modi became the media’s and the intellectual gangs’ main villain as 2002 was tailor-made to suit their agenda of secularism. Secularism was nothing but a ploy to attract Muslim votes and keep a control on Hindus from asserting themselves. In order to give it sanctity, the Congress regime under Sonia Gandhi patronized every creative and intellectual voice that helped her further her agenda against a potential contender, Modi, by giving them alms.
  • With no avenue left, I published a blog titled ‘15 Communal Questions to The Secular Bollywood’, which went viral. The response came from unexpected quarters – the real India. People who couldn’t articulate their thoughts but felt strongly against the intellectual discrimination and fakeness of secularism started connecting with me. Mine was the lone Bollywood voice of dissent against a very powerful cabal of Leftists who wanted Modi’s head. They say that big fires start with small sparks and that you climb Mt. Everest by taking a small step.
  • Sonia Gandhi led UPA has brought us to this. Where Indians are pitted against Indians.
  • Secular, as I understand, means that religion should not play any role in governance. If it’s true, then why were you quiet for last 10 years when the ruling party was continuously giving alms to Muslims? Did you and your fellow signatories utter a word when PM M.M. Singh said that minorities have first right over natural resources?
  • Or a party which believes in Hindu secularism and is led by ‘the-man-you-hate’ who says 10 times a day that his only mantra is ‘Justice for all. Appeasement for none.’
  • If your fellow ‘secular’ filmwallas feel so strongly about the ‘secular foundations’ and its preservation thereof, how come they never uttered a word against the Muzzafarnagar riots? Or against Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav? Or Azam Khan? Or Abu Azmi?
  • Shrimati Sonia Gandhi also issued an appeal a few days ago. Is it a coincidence that your appeal is reinforcing exactly the same? Can you vouch it for yourself and the other signatories that none has ever been a beneficiary of Congress’s alms? And that none of you have any vested interest, no political agenda? And no one is firing from your shoulders? If not, where was the need to get organized and send an appeal in such a hurry? Did you send this mail to all listed film professionals or just to those who you knew will sign blindly?

Quotes about Agnihotri

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Religious writers Mirra AlfassaAnirvanAurobindoChinmoyEknath EaswaranNisargadatta MaharajRamana MaharshiMaharishi Mahesh YogiNarayana GuruSister NiveditaSrila PrabhupadaChinmayananda SaraswatiDayananda SaraswatiSivanandaRavi ShankarShraddhanandVivekanandaYogananda
Political writers AdvaniDeepakGandhiGautierGopalJainKishwarMunshiRadhakrishnanRaiRoySardaSastriSavarkarSenShourieShivaSinghTilakUpadhyayaVajpayee
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