I&B Ministry won’t let you watch ‘Nude’ and ‘Sexy Durga’ at IFFI

IFFI Jury head Sujoy Ghosh resigned

Cinema

News - India & You

November 15, 2017

/ By / Kolkata

The poster of Ravi Jadhav's film Nude was set to be the opening of IFFI

The poster of Ravi Jadhav’s film Nude was set to be the opening of IFFI

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India decided to overrule the jury selection to the Indian Panorama section in the  International Film Festival of India (IFFI) and drop two films from the screening list. The I&B Ministry pulled out Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Malayalam movie S Durga (earlier named as Sexy Durga) and Ravi Jadhav’s Marathi film Nude from the festival.

Reaching its 48th edition, one of India’s most prestigious international film festivals, the IFFI will be held in Panaji, the capital of the western Indian state of Goa from November 20-28.

The Indian Panorama section screens 26 films selected by a 13-member jury. This year the jury was headed by filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh known for his films Kahaani and Kahaani 2. The decision of dropping the two films came as a surprise to the jury as well as they were allegedly neither consulted nor informed until the list of the films was published on the festival website. Ghosh stepped down from the position and refrained from commenting any further although making it very evident that the unprecedented move by the ministry was the prime reason.

One of the major rules of the festival selection procedure is that the selection of the jury remains irrevocable; however, I&B Ministry’s interference somehow overrules that as well. The jury had its final list submission on September 21 and the news of chucking out two films from the list surfaced a couple of days back.

Reactions of despair

Stopping cinema to reach the audience is not a solitary incident in India. The central board of film certification (CBFC) that has assumed the name of censor board has a long history of exercising moral policing on filmmakers. A senior member of the Film Federation India said, “I also know the incident but I have not received any formal notification from the ministry. This is happening over the years that the filmmakers of this country receive a step-motherly treatment from the government. It is either the CBFC or the government or some other religious group who takes a radical stand against films without even understanding the motive or content of the film.”

Sexy Durga brings out the real picture of misogyny, nihilism and moral policing rampant in India

Sexy Durga brings out the real picture of misogyny, nihilism and moral policing rampant in India

One of the two films dropped from the IFFI Indian Panorama section includes Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Malayalam film S Durga. The director of the film was earlier pressurised to change the name of the film as it supposedly hurts Hindu sentiments. He received threats and subversive messages in his inboxes from a right-wing organisation called the Hindu Swabhiman Sangh in February this year. Allegedly offensive to religious sentiments, the entire mayhem followed as retaliation for the use of the word ‘sexy’ being attached to Durga (a Hindu Goddess).

Sasidharan’s Malayalam film, Sexy Durga won the prestigious Hivos Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) and is the first Indian film to win the prestigious Hivos Tiger Award at the IFFR. Noir by nature, the film is an on-the-road social commentary depicting the life of a woman travelling in a city after sunset. Inspired by the Nirbhaya incident (the much-talked-about Delhi rape case in December 2012) along with the realistic criticism of patriarchy, the uncanny thriller revolves around a couple that elopes in the middle of the night and then hitchhikes on a truck with four unknown men.

Sasidharan has already filed a petition at the Kerala High Court challenging the exclusion of his from the 48th edition of the IFFI and says he believes in the judiciary of the country and still hopes to get justice.

Ravi Jadhav is a national award-winning filmmaker and his film Nude traces a story of a Marathi woman who works as a nude model in an art school. The subject of the film is allegedly a reason that upsets the honour and ethics of the ministry. However, the Marathi film industry has reacted strongly against the move and filmmakers like Sumitra Bhave, the director of Kasav, the film which got the President Gold Medal for best feature film, is going to withdraw her film from Panorama section and said that she would not attend the festival in support of the protest against the unjust decision by I&B Ministry.

Mikhil Musale, an independent filmmaker from Gujarat who was also a part of the jury of India’s entry to the Academy Awards this year said, “I think it’s a very sad news; at least the intention behind the films should have been understood. Or at least they should have respected the filmmaker behind the film who is a four times national award winner. They should understand that when it’s coming from him, it’s not just a sensation but a very well-thought subject. I feel sad for the filmmakers that for years they write scripts and make films and aspire to showcase their work in such prestigious film festivals and then without any consideration the films get removed even without the consent of the jury.”

Apurva Asrani, the writer of films such as Shahid and Aligarh has also resigned from the post of a jury member of the IFFI. He followed Sujoy Ghosh and expressed his dissent against the autocratic decision to drop two films. Both the films were cleared by CBFC and that makes it all the more appalling.

Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal who recently submitted a report to the CBFC for a reform in their system of classification and avoid the assumed stature of censorship said, “If such things happen, I don’t believe any self-respecting person would like to be in the jury.”

Poster of Nude and Sexy Durga

Poster of Nude and Sexy Durga

In fact, the jury was floored by the brilliance of the Marathi flick and decided to make it the opening film of the festival. While Nude carried a strong message in a country that is fighting gender gap S Durga speaks about the safety of women on Indian roads. All that we can do is to ask a question to the ministry headed by Smriti Irani, an actor herself if she can clarify the decision and tell the nation or at least the film lovers of the nation what spurred the unprecedented decision of dropping these two films?

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