Panaji: Controversial movie “S Durga” was refused screening at the IFFI ending today after the censor board ordered the Malayalam film be re-examined over alleged violation of rules, thwarting another attempt by its director who said it was contempt of court.
A screening of the censored version of the film was held for the jury last evening at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here and in a letter dated today, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) wrote to the producers asking them to resubmit the movie, which was earlier given a U/A certificate. The movie was directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan.
A special screening of “S Durga” will, meanwhile, be held during the upcoming International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram next month, according to veteran director Kamal, Chairman of Kerala Chalachitra Academy. Kamal said the special screening is a “mark of protest” and “political resistance” against the dropping of the movie from the IFFI even after it was selected by an expert jury. The bone of contention for screening at the IFFI in Goa appears to be the hashtag that follow the letter “S” in the revised title of the movie, which was earlier named “Sexy Durga”.
“It appears that you have prima facie, deliberately violated the Rule 33 of the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983 and hence invocation of Section 5E(1) (i) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 may be considered.
“In this connection, I am directed to inform you that the above film will be re-examined under the provision of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 and Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983, with the date and venue being notified to you soon,” said the letter, which was addressed to Shaji Mathew, the producer of the film.
The letter stated that the board had “received complaints from the IFFI jury at Goa over the title of the film”.
According to the letter, the director had shown “S### Durga” on the title card which the board says “has totally different implications and are effectively undermining and attempting to defeat the very basis of the title registration and changes effected thereby”.
The CBFC said the makers cannot exhibit the film further until the board re-examines it. It said a suitable date and time will be conveyed to the makers soon. Immediately after the CBFC order, IFFI director Sunit Tandon wrote to Sanal, notifying him that the movie will not be showcased due to the CBFC’s intervention.
“This is to inform you that all steps were taken to ensure compliance with the hon’ble court’s order and a screening of the certified version of your film ‘S Durga’ was arranged last evening for the feature film jury for the Indian Panorama 2017 as duly constituted by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
“Following the screening certain issues related to the certification of the film with reference to the title of the film were raised. This was referred to the CBFC for clarification. In response to the queries, CBFC has issued the orders attached herewith.
“As a consequence to the orders of CBFC, the film cannot be exhibited till the issues are resolved,” he wrote.
Reacting to the development, Sanal said it is not about a film anymore.
“This is a real danger that we are facing in our society now, an indication of what is yet to come,” he told PTI.
“Now onwards if you make a film which the government does not like then at any cost they are not going to allow you to screen it anywhere. It is a fact. This is what they wanted. They probably don’t want me to release the film in the state’s theatres,” he said.
Sanal said there is nothing he can do right now.
“The only resort that we have is the judicial system and the government is so brazen that they are saying we are not going to obey even if the judiciary has passed an order. We will do whatever we want. We can quash the order… whatever.
“What they did last night was, they got four new members in the jury without even giving any information. It is an unusual procedure, totally illegal. Now based on that decision, those people are saying that the film cannot be screened.
“It is a contempt of court. This will become the debate of artistic freedom,” he said.
The film was dropped from the final IFFI list by the Information and Broadcasting ministry, prompting the director to move to the Kerala High Court.
The court ruled in Sanal’s favour and directed the ministry to screen the film at the festival and the ministry tried to obtain a stay order on the Kerala High Court’s decision but it was denied by the court. Earlier in the day, Sanal claimed that a majority of members of the Indian Panorama jury voted in favour of his film screened after watching its censored version last night.