Independent Malayalam film-maker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's new film Sexy Durga has a curious fate. The film has been receiving accolades from abroad, and brickbats back in India, ironically from many who haven't watched it yet.
The film's title was sharp enough to hurt the religious sentiments of the right wing fanatics who found it insulting to goddess Durga, despite the film-maker repeating that it's an instance of over-reading.
Now, with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) brazenly endorsing the ignorant view of the religious right wing, Sanal has been forced to change his film's title, though in an act of extraordinary creativity and protest.
Sexy Durga is no more sexy, but 'Sxxx,' at least in Indian cinemas. Have a close look at the new title of the film's posters, you can see that the three 'x' are not mere letters but plasters covering bleeding wounds, apparently from three fresh bullets. The title looks more sharp in the new shape, and it has to be seen how many more are going to be hurt with it now.
"I had only two options after the CBFC's directive to change the title. Either comply with it or fight it legally. I chose the first option because I had a feeling that in the current social scenario, I may not get a favorable verdict. What if the court, after three or four years, asks me why I just cant' change the title?," Sanal told Onmanorama over phone.
He said he wanted to take his film to the people through theaters and did not want to waste years in a legal tangle. Terming the CBFC's demand for title change 'atrocious and despotic,' Sanal said he can't think of calling Sexy Durga by another name since the title was already well-entrenched.
He said the system or the establishment had become so mediocre and ruined that one can only fight it cleverly; hence the new title.
"With the new title, those in the CBFC might have realized that their demand was wrong," he said.
"The title Sexy Durga is being discussed more than ever before now. I believe that art aims at provoking such discussions in society," he added.
Asked if he found the CBFC's decision as an endorsement of the violent views of the religious fanatics, Sanal replied in a firm 'yes.'
"I think those in the CBFC either support Hindutva or carry with them the sof-Hindutva feelings. They watched the entire film and found nothing insulting goddess Durga as being alleged. They suggested not even a single cut other than muting a few expletives in Malayalam. Still they found the title offensive," he said.
Asked if the controversies affected his new work, Sanal said he found them an inspiration to work more creatively. He said he was finding it a necessity to release the film in theaters, especially since those who conduct film festivals think they have a monopoly over independent films. Sanal is planning to release the film in December and also awaiting response from a few film festivals.
Sexy Durga is Sanal's third film after 'Oralpokkam' and 'Ozhivudivasathe Kali,' both critically acclaimed works.
The movie, starring Rajshri Deshpande and Kannan Nayar, became the first Indian film in 23 years to win laurels since the Tiger Awards were introduced at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).
The film was recently in news after Sanal pulled it off the International Film Festival of Kerala as it was included in the Malayalam Cinema Today segment. Sanal is working on his fourth film, Unmadiyude Maranam (Death of the insane).