He was speaking at the open forum ‘Censorship in cinema’ at the Kochi International Film Festival.

‘Censorship in cinema’ was the topic scheduled for discussion at the first open forum of the Kochi International Film Festival on Monday. The lively talk, however, touched upon everything from exile and freedom of expression to actor Shweta Menon’s pregnancy.

Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, during the open forum, said the government censorship process in Iran was similar to two blind people judging the merit of a film. “Cinema should act as a mirror that will correct society,” he said.

The director’s son Maysam, a filmmaker himself, also took part in the open forum. “Anything that makes people think is censored in Iran,” he said.

Filmmakers first had to get the synopsis of the film approved by the censors, and then the script. Even if these got through the censors, filmmakers could be asked to replace the director or actors with someone the administration preferred, Mr. Maysam said.

Mr. Makhmalbaf and his family have been forbidden from entering their native country after the Presidential elections there in 2009, which the Opposition party in Iran had alleged were rigged. Mr. Makhmalbaf’s younger daughter Hana had also made a film called ‘Green Days’ about the protests that sparked off the Arab Spring. While the director has been living in exile in Paris, his family, who are also filmmakers, are scattered in different parts of the world. “Most Iranian filmmakers are living outside the country for fear of arrest,” Mr. Makhmalbaf said at the discussion.

Sajeevan Anthikad, director of ‘Prabhuvinte Makkal’, said while censorship was not as bad in India, certain topics such as religion or Gandhi were holy cows and could never be touched upon.

called for an end to all government censorship. “Instead, people should develop a democratic sensibility to tolerate criticism,” he said.

Actor Shweta Menon’s pregnancy also came up for discussion at the open forum, and among audiences at the festival as well. The award-winning actor came into controversy after her delivery was filmed for director Blessy’s upcoming film ‘Kalimannu.’

While some participants found the opposition to the scene downright ridiculous, others seemed to suggest that it was a publicity stunt. “Scenes of childbirth are not new to Malayalam cinema. All this noise is coming from people who haven’t even seen the film,” said Mr. Anthikad.

The discussion was moderated by actor Ravindhar, who is the director of the film festival.

He said the response to the festival was greater than the organisers had expected. “With the participation of Makhmalbaf and his family, who have spent their entire lives making cinema, the film festival has come into the same league as other international festivals,” he said.

The organisers on Monday managed to smooth out some of the problems they had faced on the opening day. By Monday afternoon, film schedules of the next day were prepared and displayed at the Savitha theatre complex, the main venue of the festival.