On the day filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh resigned as Indian Panorama jury chairman of the 48th International Film Festival of India 2017 (IFFI), in protest against the dropping of two films — Nude and S Durga — by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry from the original line-up, the government finally broke its long silence and clarified that “due process” was followed.
Since the 2016 edition of IFFI uncensored films are allowed to be screened in film festivals. However, the producers of such uncensored films need to get an “exemption certificate” from the Ministry which was denied in the case of both the films, while 11 others in the list of 26 were granted the same.
In the case of Ravi Jadhav’s Nude that was chosen by the jury to be the opening film of the Indian Panorama section, it was denied due to incomplete post-production. “Even the scroll detailing cast and crew of the film was not there. How could we give it certificate at this stage?” a senior official added. “I am ready to show the complete film on November 20 at IFFI. Are they willing to screen it?” Jadhav responded cheekily.
Jadhav said, in the case of brand new films, the directors submit screeners to the film festivals. These are about 95% complete, close to the real, intended experience. “Even after submission we keep working on and enhancing the technical aspects,” he clarified. Final print is made only when the organisers/ministry sends a letter informing of the selection, asking them to keep it ready by a certain date.
Earlier in October, the ministry had objected to Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s film and its original title, Sexy Durga, denying it censor exemption for screening at the Jio MAMI 19th Mumbai Film Festival With Star 2017. However, it eventually played at the festival after the film was given U/A certificate by the Central Board for Film Certification. The CBFC suggested change of title (it was amended to S Durga ) and deletion of some words in some scenes.
However, according to the senior official, the original, uncensored version was submitted for IFFI, making the ministry deny it “exemption certificate” for the second time. Sasidharan dismissed this as “a mere statement for justifying their illegal action”. “If they had any problem with the censorship of the film they should have asked me. An opportunity to be heard had to be given to me,” he said.
Meanwhile, some of the jury members wanted to know what took the government so long to respond on the non-inclusion of the films despite requests from several quarters. They wanted to know why the reasons for exclusion were not provided in the original mail to the jury.
“The two films which have been picked to replace them were part of the waitlist which the jury itself gave us. It is not an arbitrary choice,” a senior government official said.
Sasidharan goes to court
Earlier on Tuesday, Sasidharan filed a writ petition in the Kerala High Court on the non-inclusion of his film in the Indian Panorama section. The court considered the matter for admission on Tuesday and has posted hearing to Thursday for a reply from the ministry.
Editor-scriptwriter Apurva Asrani has also stepped down as a jury member. “I stand with the chairman of the jury. We have had a responsibility towards some very sincere films, and somewhere we have failed. My conscience won’t allow me to participate in the festivities in Goa. I wish all the other films good luck. Each one has been made with a lot of love.”