The central government's decision to drop two films, including Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's S Durga, from the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was nothing but unapologetic fascism, actor-writer Murali Gopy has said.
In an exclusive interview to Onmanorama in Thiruvananthapuram, Murali said he spoke for the film as he felt it was his duty, as an artist, to voice for the freedom of expression and creativity.
"As a votary of independent art, I'm against all sorts of intolerance and I stand by the freedom of expression and creativity," he said.
He said that such fascist trends persisted under various governments since Independence. "Fascism is not the monopoly of a single political party. In modern times the term fascism can be defined as an unjustifiable exercise of power by a group over the other at places where it has an upper hand. It could be a group at the Center or in the states," he said, recalling the stiff opposition his film 'Left Right Left' had to face from some corners.
Asked if it was proper for the I&B ministry to endorse the atmosphere of religious intolerance in the country, from which the opposition to films like Sexy Durga (renamed as S Durga following censor board's intervention) stems, he said, "The democratically elected governments of India, which owe their power and existence to the people of this country, unfortunately work on the basis of a stealthily home-grown agenda.
And films such as Sexy Durga are victims of it. And these are not the first films to find themselves on the wrong side of governmental agenda. If you run through the history of censorship in India, you will find at least a 100 such films which have faced similar gross injustice at the hands of governments, which are supposedly answering to both left and right wing ideologies. An artist's responsibility is to speak for his and others' works that fall prey to such intolerance," he said.
However, on the silence of a section of mainstream filmmakers on the ongoing controversy surrounding Sanal's film, he said he cannot speak on behalf of others. However, there definitely are exceptions, he added.
Terming the censor board's demand to change the film's title childish, Murali said "one should be able to understand the film before asking to change its title."
"India considers goddess Durga as mother and gives absolute adoration to Her. On the other side it's a country where there are innumerable cases of absolute disrespect extended towards women. In such a paradoxical situation, the film redefines two words - both Sexy and Durga. That's it's relevance," he said.
Murali hailed some of the IFFI Indian Panorama jury members' decision to quit in protest against the government overruling their selection as a positive
step. "It's the only available fillip for the film," he said.
Asked about the branding spree that is going on in social media with regards to the stances that artists take on social and political matters, he said it's a very dangerous trend.
"Earlier, we had brand ambassadors for an ideology. Now that place is taken over by branding ambassadors. If we speak against communist dictatorship, we become 'sanghi'. If we question the other group, we become commie," he said.