New Delhi: In an interview to the Times of India, director Ujjwal Chatterjee, who was on the panel that selected films for screening at the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), has said that six or seven films were rejected because they were deemed to be “anti-national”.
The IFFI will be held in Goa between November 20 and 28 this year. The festival moved to Goa in 2004.
“There were 45 entries in Malayalam. Most were related to the Naxalite movement. Some films were outright rejected because they were anti-national!” Chatterjee was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
“What do you mean by anti-national?” the interviewer asks.
“We have no problems with criticism but no film should hurt the sentiments of a certain section of people,” Chatterjee responded. “Even if a film has to give importance to a personal view, things have to be seen from the national perspective. One can’t express anti-India sentiments, derogatory words against the country or even encourage an attack against a particular religion. There were at least six-seven films that wrongly represented India. They were not considered because they reflected anti-national sentiments.”
The director also said that to be selected for the ‘Indian panorama’ section, a film had to “culturally and visually in sync with what India represents”.
Chatterjee, a National Award-winning director, had said earlier this year that he is planning a film on the “suspicious deaths” of “Hindu nationalist leaders”. Chatterjee told News18, “From the year 1948, after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru arrested all the Sangh leaders. All those who retaliated to him were removed from the picture. This was done in connivance with the Russian agency KGB.”
This isn’t the first time the IFFI has favoured a certain kind of ‘nationalism’, even if it came at the cost of artistic freedom. In 2017, as The Wire had reported, the national anthem played 37 times each day during the festival. The IFFI had also courted controversy after the film S Durga was chosen for screening and then suddenly dropped from the line-up. While the high court tried to ensure that the film would be screened, the censor board intervened at the last moment and denied the film the necessary permissions.
S Durga was one of two films – along with Nude – that had been chosen by the jury for screening in the ‘Indian panorama’ category, but then vetoed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting under Smriti Irani. Six jury members had then written to the ministry asking it to reconsider, and filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh resigned from the jury in protest.