New Delhi: The Kerala high court has told the organisers of the International Film Festival of India, to be held in Goa between November 20 and 28, that they must include the film S Durga in the line up at the festival. The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had earlier pulled out both S Durga and Nude from the schedule, even though the festival jury had chosen them.
The matter was heard by single judge Justice K. Vinod Chandran, on a petition filed by S Durga director Sanal Kumar Sashidharan. According to a LiveLaw report, the I&B ministry tried to argue that the film “was objectionable and offensive to religious sentiments”, adding that the jury had selected the uncensored version of the film. However, the court said that since the film had got a U/A certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification, the ministry’s reservations were untenable. The judge added that the ‘uncensored’ version was not too different from the one that the CBFC cleared, except a few expletives being beeped out. The jury’s decision should be final and binding in this matter, LiveLaw quoted the judge as saying, and so the ministry did not have to power to intervene.
The ministry also tried to argue that the Kerala high court should not be hearing this case because no part of the cause of action had taken place in Kerala, but this was “found to be unsustainable on the ground that the certification of movie by CBFC was carried out in Kerala, by the Regional Office at Thiruvananthapuram,” LiveLaw reported.
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.
After the I&B ministry removed the two films from the festival’s list, filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh resigned as head of the jury of the festival’s Indian Panorama section. Jury member Apurva Asrani also resigned.
In his petition to the Kerala high court, Sashidharan said, “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.”
The director told The Wire in an interview, “The I&B ministry has arbitrarily intruded into a jury’s decision by an unprecedented action to remove two films from the Indian Panorama section of the festival. This has never ever happened in the history of the festival till date. The jury members including the chairman have come out openly against this injustice; the chairman has even tendered his resignation. They might not come on record or testify in person but we can submit the media reports in court and I am hopeful of a favourable verdict. I think there is a strong case against the ministry. The minister (Smriti Irani) has misused the constitutional powers vested in her.”