India needs films like Nude and S Durga. Dropping it from IFFI Panorama is a shame
Those who took the decision may not have watched the movies at all.
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The mess that the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) has now run into after delisting two of the movies out of the 21, chosen by the 13-member Sujoy Ghosh jury, can be attributed to only one reason, one word. Prejudice.
In recent years, radical political groups have been targeting cinema on one flimsy pretext or the other. Some years ago, mobs ransacked theatres screening Deepa Mehta's Fire, because it was assumed that the film was celebrating or promoting lesbianism. It was not, and Mehta cried hoarse that her work was all about a relationship between two unhappy women. Later, when the director wanted to shoot Water in Varanasi, hooligans chased her, her actors and crew out of Varanasi, because it was presumed that the movie which talks about the plight of widows would show the country in poor light. How ridiculous! For, who does not know about the plight of the widows living in the city!
Similar is the story of Padmavati, with several groups in Rajasthan baying for the film's blood, because it is supposed to have a romantic scene between the Rani of Chitoor, Padmini, and the Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji. Nobody knows if there is at all such a sequence, for none has seen Padmavati.
Unfortunately, if those who opposed Fire had not seen the movie and those angrily protesting against Padmavati have no clue what the film is all about, I feel those responsible for ticking off Ravi Yadav's Nude (in Marathi) and Sanal Sasidharan's S Durga (Malayalam) from the Indian Panorama may not have watched these two movies at all. And, instead of relying on the valued judgement of the jury – which was handpicked by the information and broadcasting ministry – the government chose to drop Nude and S Durga.
Sasidharan told me over telephone from Kerala, “I am really disturbed by what is happening. First, the ministry appoints a jury, which follows a well-establish legal procedure, and then its verdict is not honoured. And not only this. The ministry also justifies its decision to remove the films from the Panorama.”
So, how does one come to a conclusion without actually watching a movie? This is highly unfair, and the only explanation seems to be “prejudice”. For, earlier, S Durga was titled as Sexy Durga. But it had nothing sexy about it, nothing vaguely sexy, and it talks about one night, one highway, one van, one couple – a young man and woman eloping to Chennai frightened out of their wits by some sozzled men. If there is one word to sum up S Durga, it is not sexy, it would be "fear". And Sasidharan has done a fantastic job here, and it is highly regrettable that people at IFFI will not have a chance to watch it.
I had this wonderful opportunity to see the movie at last year's Film Bazaar. The Ghosh (Sujoy has now resigned in protest) jury had also seen it. Of course. But who cares about the judgement of the jury, and mind you, it worked for about 18 days to pick 21 titles from the 153 submitted. Also, all this was done at a cost to the public exchequer!
It is a pity I didn't have the opportunity to watch Nude, but I am told that it traces the story of a poor woman who poses for artists to make some money. In fact, the jury was so impressed by it that it suggested Nude open the Panorama. Ghosh himself averred that he found the movie extremely moving and aesthetic, with no trace of vulgarity. It was very well made.
So, here again, the decision to throw out Nude has probably been taken by people who have not seen it, and who have simply gone by the title. A clear case of prejudice. All over again.
I am really appalled that in a country where so much of vulgarity is displayed on screen with the so-called item numbers (in which skimpily-clad women dance and gyrate to downright crude lyrics and accompanied by bare-chested men) and which are freely allowed by the Central Board of Film Certification, movies that are creatively made and talk of pressing issues (Nude is about poverty, and S Durga is all about insecurity on our highways) are shown the door.
Honestly, the information and broadcasting ministry – which is in charge of both IFFI and Film Bazaar, organised by the National Film Development of India – must rise above such prejudices and treat cinema with dignity. After all, it is a highly creative process, and must get its place. Also, it is about time a jury was given its due respect, and its verdict got value and importance.