A Victory for 'S Durga' but 'Nude' Still in the Dark

Published on: November 25, 2017

Nude was meant to be the opening film of the Indian Panorama section.

                                                                    Image Courtesy: First Post
In yet another incident of curbing of the freedom of speech, this time by a ministry of the government itself, two films were removed from the list of screenings at the ongoing 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI).

The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry, in an unprecedented move, decided to drop two films—a Malayalam film, S Durga, by Sanal Sasidharan; and a Marathi film, Nude, by the national award winning director Ravi Jadhav—which were scheduled to be screened at this year’s IFFI in Goa. In fact, Nude was meant to be the opening film of the Indian Panorama section. Neither of the directors was given prior notice or intimation of any kind before the decision. The films had already been cleared by a 13-member jury of the Indian Panorama section of IFFI.

S Durga has been screened in several international film festivals, has garnered critical appreciation, and also won the Hivos Tiger Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam. However, this isn’t the first time that the film has run into trouble in the country. The Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival refused to give censor exemption to the film. Then, the film was only given a U/A certification by the regional office of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), despite 21 audio mutes and a change of the title from Sexy Durga to S Durga.

Sujoy Ghosh, head of jury of the Indian Panorama section, which had cleared the two films according to the Indian Panorama Regulations, tendered his resignation on 14 November 2017, ostensibly to protest against the I&B Ministry’s decision. Following this, another jury member, scriptwriter Apurva Asrani, also resigned.

Six members of the jury also wrote a letter expressing their “[distress] that the two films were removed without any intimation, discussion or recourse to the jury which has the final say, according to the Indian Panorama Regulations.” The letter was sent to Smriti Irani, the I&B Minister, with a copy also sent to the Secretary of the I&B Ministry. They stated that the films were “relevant in terms of a larger conversation on gender, as well as on women’s empowerment.” The six jury members who signed the letter were Hari Vishwanath, Satarupa Sanyal, Ruchi Narain, Suresh Heblikar, Sachin Chatte, and Gopi Desai.

Sanal Sasidharan responded to the I&B Ministry's decision by filing a writ petition in the Kerala High Court, which over-ruled the I&B Ministry’s decision on Tuesday, 21 November 2017. The Ministry argued that the movie "was objectionable and offensive to religious sentiments." Justice K Vinod Chandran, who gave the Order directing the I&B Ministry and the Directorate of Film Festivals to screen the certified version of the movie at the ongoing 48th International Film Festival of India, noted that "The jury has included the film for screening in the festival after viewing the un-censored version itself. When even the un-censored version was found to be worthy by the jury for presentation, there can be no objection raised as to the certified version being screened." 

Sasidharan welcomed the decision, saying in a statement to The Hindu, “It’s not my victory or the victory of S Durga but in these dark times it’s a victory for cinema, for freedom of speech and for democracy.” However, it is still too early to celebrate, because even after two days of the Kerala HC’s Order, there is still confusion over the screening of S Durga at IFFI.  

For director Ravi Jadhav, however, there has been no such good news. As of now, his film, Nude, will not be screened this year at IFFI.