After Pressure From Sangh, Screening of Documentary on Demonetisation Cancelled

The Malayalam film tells the story of a tea vendor who shaved his head and burnt his cash to protest against demonetisation.

New Delhi: Oru Chaayakadakarante Mann ki Baat (Mind Matter of a Tea Vendor), an award-winning Malayalam documentary about the hardships of a tea seller after demonetisation, was supposed to be screened at the Kerala Club in New Delhi on Monday. The event was cancelled at the last minute, though, allegedly after Sangh parivar members threatened members of the club.

According to The Telegraph, organisers were told not to screen the movie because it shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi “in bad light”. The screening was going to be followed by a discussion on the economic crisis.

“By yesterday morning itself, Kerala Club members had told us that they were getting threats and they wouldn’t be able to host the screening. They did not specify who exactly called them up, but told us that they were warned not to allow us as the film showed PM Modi in bad light. Although the film was not screened, a discussion on the economic crisis with (academic and senior journalist) Sukumar Muralidharan was allowed,” P.S. Ramdas, national coordinator of Clone Cinema Alternative (CCA), told the newspaper. CCA had arranged for the screening to take place.

The documentary, directed by Sanu Kummil, tells the story of 75-year-old Yahiya, who burnt the demonetised Rs 23,000 he was not able exchange and shaved half his head in protest. He fainted while in line to exchange the cash, and had to be hospitalised.

“Last night, I got a call from the venue coordinators saying that there could be issues with the screening of the film. This afternoon, they told me that they had got calls from local leaders associated with the Sangh parivar, asking them to cancel the screening. So, we have cancelled it for now. I am now looking for alternate locations to screen the film in Delhi,” direct Sanu Kummil told The Hindu.

Also read: An Artist’s Tender Critique of Demonetisation, and Memorial to its Victims

According to Bangalore Mirror, the Delhi Union of Journalists has offered to help arrange another screening soon.

This is not the first time that a documentary critical of the Narendra Modi government and right-wing politics in India has had a hard time being shown. In June this year, the Centre had objected to Anand Patwardhan’s Vivek (Reason) being screened at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival in Thiruvananthapuram, citing “law and order” concerns. The Kerala high court, however, overruled the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s decision.

In September 2018, the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune refused to screen a documentary made by a former students’ union head, who had led protests on campus. The film was about the radical cultural group Kabir Kala Manch.

In 2017, a screening of Nakul Sawhney’s Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyan at Kirori Mal College in Delhi University was cancelled. The ABVP had disrupted screenings of two of Sawhney’s films before that.