The Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed that Malayalam film “S Durga” be screened at the ongoing 48th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa — a decision the movie’s team and film fraternity members immediately hailed.
A single bench of the High Court gave the verdict after the film’s director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan approached it over the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to pull out the film from a IFFI jury-suggested list for the gala’s Indian Panorama section.
The court directed that the certified copy of the movie should be screened at IFFI, one of the most prestigious film festivals of the country.
Sasidharan, who has been putting up a fight against the system, told IANS from Brisbane: “I am so happy. This is the victory for cinema.”
On Facebook, he wrote: “I usually don’t celebrate victories. But this I can’t stay away. This is the victory of cinema. This is the victory of our democracy. This is the victory of those people from jury who sacrificed. Cheers India!”
The filmmaker is currently in Brisbane for the 11th Asia Pacific Screen awards (APSA), where “S Durga” — previously titled “Sexy Durga” — is in contention.
Calling himself a “poor, helpless, powerless citizen of India”, Sasidharan further addressed a message to the government: “I believe you that you will safeguard my rights as a citizen which the Constitution has assured me.
“That is why I am here, as a citizen blindly believing that you will safeguard me. Please don’t abandon me. Please dont crap my faith on my Constitution… I am nothing, but mind you.. you are not everything.”
His Malayalam film — described as a film about how “obsessiveness and worship can quickly degenerate in a patriarchal society into a mentality of oppression and abuse of power” — has been recognised internationally.
Actor Kannan Nair, who plays a key role in the movie with Rajshri Deshpande, told IANS at IFFI: “It is nothing about defeating or winning. We are right. We are on the right side and the court has been with the right side. We were expecting this to happen. The court is the only hope for people like us.”
Film writer and editor Apurva Asrani, who was one of the IFFI Indian Panorama jury members who resigned over the exclusion of “S Durga” and Marathi film “Nude” from the final list, said the Kerala High Court’s decision had restored his faith in democracy.
“Why is a woman worshipped in a temple but treated as a mere sex object on our streets? ‘S Durga’ explores that question brilliantly and we as jury were proud to have programmed it. I don’t know how and why it got dropped, but I have always believed that if our Information and Broadcasting Minister, who is an empowered woman herself, were to see this film, she would go all out to support it.
“I’m proud of Sanal for believing in his film and for fighting to get it screened at such an important festival,” Asrani said in a statement.
Expressing happiness for “S Durga”, popular Malayalam director Kamal, also the Chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, the state-owned body that organises the International Film Festival of Kerala, said it was very strange that the film was pulled out.
“One fails to understand on why creativity has to face numerous stumbling blocks after conceiving a film and then going through the shooting and post production drills… To get it screened, one has to approach the court. This does not augur well,” said Kamal.
IFFI Festival Director Sunit Tandon is yet to comment.