IFFI row hots up

The Asian Age.  | Dyuti Basu and Pratyush Patra

Entertainment, Bollywood

The Kerala High Court has asked the I&B ministry for an explanation and will reach a decision with regards to S Durga by Thursday.

Nude poster

Filmmakers express shock at how creative liberty and freedom of expression are taking a beating at this edition of the International Film Festival of India.

At a time when the film industry is asking the government to extend support to Padmavati by stop those creating a ruckus and claiming their religious sentiments have been hurt even before the film has released, shocking everyone the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) overruled the jury and dropped two films from the screening list at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). The move led to jury chief Sujoy Ghosh resigning in protest.

Nude is a film on models who pose in the buff for sculptors and artists. Its director Ravi Jadhav says, “It was a story that needed to be told, since no one asks these models about what their lives are like. It’s ironic, really, that an industry that has information in its very name should fail to inform everyone involved before taking such a decision. Forget me, they did not even inform the jury about the fact that they had dropped the film! My film is slotted at international festivals like Berlin and Cannes, but it’s always a dream to have one’s own country view it and the ultimate goal remains a National Award. So, it’s because of that that this move really stings.”

IFFI is set to open on November 20 and Sujoy had recommended Nude as the opening film. The opening film of the feature film section of Indian Panorama now is Pihu directed by Vinod Kapri. On the turn of events, Kapri said, “What has happened is very unfortunate. However, I would not comment further because I have no idea why all this happened. I am focussing on my film. It’s a great honour for me that Pihu will be the opening film in India’s most prestigious film festival. It’s a film that is very close to my heart.”

S Durga poster

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s S Durga, formerly called Sexy Durga, had run into some trouble even before MAMI film festival. However, it had screened at the festival with a changed name. Now to face this issue at the 11th hour is outrageous, and a shot at artistic freedom, feels the director. “It is not just a matter of my film, it is a matter of this nation being a democracy, where artistic freedom should be allowed. When something of this sort happens, there is only one thing to do, and that is to come together as a fraternity and protest. I have lodged a complaint with the Kerala High Court to make my stand,” he says decisively.

Advocate Manu Sebastian, who is representing Sanal in this case, says that their petition has already been heard by the court. “Sumitra Bhave’s film Kaasav, which won the Golden Lotus, was supposed to be screened at IFFI. However, she has also retracted her film as a sign of protest. It is heartening to find this support from others in the industry. I will keep trying my luck with other film festivals. The jury at IFFI was so qualified that I was sure that this would be the perfect platform to launch the film. But there’s always another festival and I will not give up,” sighs Ravi.

Ashwini Chaudhary

Lending his support to Marathi filmmakers like Sumita and Ravi is Bollywood filmmaker Ashwini Chaudhary. “If my film had been in the festival, I would have withdrawn it. The moment these films were taken out, I had tweeted asking jury members to show some spine. I am happy Sujoy and Apurva (Asrani) resigned. I think other jury members should also resign. If we don’t stand together, such things will keep repeating. Ravi is a fantastic filmmaker and now we have his film being treated like this. If other Marathi filmmakers also withdraw their films as a protest, I stand with them.”

He adds that be it the case of Indu Sarkar, Padmavati, Nude or S Durga, there shouldn’t be selective outrage. “When you stand for a film, don’t evaluate if you have to stand against the Gandhi family or Modi. When you stand for freedom of expression, don’t involve political interests in it.”  

Ravi Jadhav

Director Shyam Benegal, who earlier asked the I&B ministry to curb the Central Board of Film Certification’s (CBFC) power to make cuts to films, says that a move like this is simply wrong. “An international film festival has nothing to do with Indian politics. It is a celebration of the art of cinema and as such there should be absolute freedom. Some of the greatest films of the entire world come to the festival and it is unfortunate that the I&B ministry has the power to veto films here. Though they are legally able to do so, since the IFFI jury comes under their purview, it does not make the move right,” he asserts.

(Inputs from Subhash K. Jha)