New Delhi: Even as the controversy over his decision to withdraw his film "Sexy Durga" from the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) was yet to subdue, filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan has become forced to fight the censor board to get his film approved.
"Sexy Durga" has won international laurels including the Tiger Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).
However, the film has been refused censor exemption to be screened at the upcoming Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival next month as the Information and Broadcasting Ministry concluded it "may affect the law and order as it hurts the religious sentiments. The ministry cited several complaints regarding the film's title, filed by those who felt it hurts their religious sentiments.
Sanal said the film had no religious connection.
"If at all there's one, it's truly philosophical for the film analyses the reasons behind the atrocities against women in India," Sanal explained.
He is upset and angry to the extent of calling India "a land that's becoming like Iran". But he is not losing hope, and has applied for a certificate from the censor board. The screening for the board was held on Tuesday.
"I am waiting for the censor board's opinion. I am going to fight for it, because it's a question of freedom of expression, the freedom of making art... I won't sit quietly. I will go to the court and make an appeal and do whatever I can do to fight this," Sanal told IANS over phone.
"It is a very difficult situation that we are compelled to do certain films under the norms and under the radar of the majoritarian scrutiny... This country is becoming a country like Iran, and we are boasting that we have democracy and freedom of speech, he said.
"But what we do is cut freedom. It is time to stand up against these things," the Kerala state award-winning director said.
On the official IFFR website, "Sexy Durga" -- starring Rajshri Deshpande and Kannan Nayar -- is 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".
"Durga is the protagonist of the film. I knew that these people will come out and say, 'Oh, Durga is our goddess'. But if that's the case, go and worship all women named Durga on the streets. That's not happening.
"What I mean is, Durga is a common name in India. It's not only the goddess. There are many human beings (named Durga) you can see, and they may not even be treated like human beings; when they need help, people don't care. But when a name (film title) comes like this, then suddenly people make a hue and cry and they say, 'Our religious sentiments are being hurt'," the filmmaker said.
"It's ridiculous and hypocritical. I wanted to bring this hypocrisy forward," he added.
To help push his case, some people have got together to put forward a petition -- 'Allow Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's film Sexy Durga at MAMI Film Festival' -- to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, via change.org.
Sasidharan rued: "Only the independent filmmakers are daring to do something different as they don't care about the financial success... But in the mainstream cinema, they all care about financial success, so they don't care about making films on those subjects that are not likable to the masses.
"Indie filmmakers are daring to make films which talk about the truth, and they (government) are trying to kill that movement. It is a very difficult time."
This is the second time that officials at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival had applied for a censor exemption for "Sexy Durga". Earlier, they wanted to screen it for their year-round program. But the application was rejected by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Smriti Kiran, the festival director, told IANS: "We require censor exemption or certification to play films in theaters. Sanal has applied for censor certification now. We hope he gets it so that we can screen it at the festival."
"Sexy Durga" was also selected for the International Film Festival of Kerala, but Sasidharan said he rejected the proposal as the organizers had slotted it for a section he didn't want it to be a part of.