'S Durga' Director Moves Kerala Court Against IFFI, I&B Ministry

"I want the ministry to go by the rule and not overlook the jury's decision. They should behave like a democracy, not a dictatorship," Sasidharan said.

New Delhi: The row over dropping  two films from the Panorama Section of the International Film Festival of India further escalated on Tuesday as S Durga director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan filed a petition in the Kerala high court against the information and broadcasting ministry as well as International Film Festival of India (IFFI) officials. Complicating matters even more, Apurva Asrani, another IFFI jury member, resigned.

These developments followed filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh’s resignation on Monday as head of IFFI’s Panorama section after the I&B ministry pulled out Sasidharan’s film S Durga and Ravi Jadhav’s Marathi movie Nude from the 48th edition of the film festival, to be held in Goa from November 20 to 28.

“I want the ministry to go by the rule and not overlook the jury’s decision. They should behave like a democracy, not a dictatorship,” Sasidharan told PTI. His petition urges the ministry to implement the jury’s decision and include films in the final list.

While resigning, Asrani said, “I stand with the chairman of the jury. We have had a responsibility towards some very sincere films, and somewhere we have failed them. My conscience won’t allow me to participate in the festivities in Goa. However, I wish all the other films good luck. Each one has been made with a lot of love and no controversy should take away from that,” reported the Indian ExpressRuchi Narain and Gopi Desai, two jury members, also said they were disappointed with the I&B ministry’s decision to change the list without consulting or informing the jury members.

According to the petition, the ministry “arbitrarily vetoed the decision of the jury without any authority of law, and excluded the petitioners from the Indian Panorama section, without (giving) notice to the petitioner, and also without assigning any reason (for the decision).”

S Durga, a road movie narrating the horrifying experience of two hitchhikers, a man and a woman, at the hands of two men in the dead of the night, won the Hivos Tiger Award in the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2017.

The petition cites protests by some fringe elements, based on their misunderstanding that the original title ‘Sexy Durga,’ was a reference to goddess Durga.

“Without understanding the context and setting of the movie, such fundamentalist groups acting with ulterior motives, opposed the film and even issued threats to the petitioner, on a baseless notion of hurting religious sentiments,” Sasidharan says in the petition. The film has nothing against goddess Durga, or any other religious icons, it says, highlighting the absence of vulgarity or obscenity. He further argues that those opposing the movie have not made any attempts to watch or understand the nuances of the film.

Rahul Rawail, another member of the jury, told the Indian Express that he had received a call from a member of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) two days before the final list was announced on November 9, seeking his suggestion on replacing S Durga. “I cannot remember the name of the NFDC representative who called me, but I was asked what I would choose as the opening film if S Durga was to be replaced. I told them Pihu would be a good film to open with,” Rawail said. He said the ministry’s decision to drop the two films did not warrant a controversy.

The I&B ministry has not made any official comment yet. However, sources in the ministry have said that S Durga had been denied permission to be screened at the Mumbai Film Festival in October and that this “uniform benchmark” has been applied to IFFI, the Indian Express reported. About Nude, the other film  excluded from the festival, sources said the film was not completed technically, which is why it had been denied permission.

With PTI inputs

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