India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Facing Controversy for Film Festival Decision
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, a branch of government in India, is facing backlash amidst reports after its removal of two films from the line-up of the 48th International Film Festival of India.
The ministry revealed a list of films for the festival last week, but the list was missing two of the films the 13-member jury originally chose to open the festival, S Durga and Nude.
A jury member, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the ministry cannot change the recommendations of the jury without consulting them first, but that is what happened in this case.
The directors have said they have not been officially informed about their films being dropped.
Sanul Kumar Sasidharan, director of S Durga, reported that the jury’s recommendations were given to the ministry two months ago, and they released the list late on purpose. The festival starts on November 20, and although he would like to take the decision to remove the film to court, he is unsure of how quickly they could appeal it.
“Where is our freedom of expression and democracy?” said Sasidharan. He believes what the Ministry has done indicates a misuse of power.
Ravi Jadhav, director of Nude, says that he has written to the ministry asking for an explanation.
“Give me some reason at least.” He has described himself as shocked and disappointed upon hearing that his film will not open the festival.
“When Ministry tasked with defending Freedom of Speech & Expression becomes it’s SLAYER it is time for the creative community to revolt against this CRUDE censorship,” said Congress leader, Manish Tewari on Twitter.
Actor Jitendra Joshi ultimately decided not to attend the festival in protest, despite his own film’s screening. Filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni turned to Facebook to protest. “Our freedom to express is non-negotiable,” he posted.
Conversely, Varun Narvekar, director of Muramba, said that if the films are not put back on the list, he and his cast and crew will physically protest during the screening of their movie.
This is the first time the Ministry has overruled a jury decision, says Sachin Kundalkar, the writer of Nude. He said that although the jury’s decision used to be treated as the final decision, the Ministry’s actions have compromised the institution of the jury. “It seems the interference from the government has seeped into film festivals as well.”
Sunil Sukthankar, yet another filmmaker, questions the presence of a jury if the Ministry can decide what is and is not screened. He also wonders where a filmmaker should exhibit his work with such restrictions.
Sujoy Ghosh, chief juror of the Indian Panorama section of the festival, also resigned from the panel, although he has not given a reason why.
In their comment on the controversy, I&B senior officials said the outcry is “a deliberate attempt to tarnish the image of the government,” and that Sexy Durga was rejected because it was granted certification under a different title, S Durga.