IFFI 2017: 6 jury members write to I&B minister to reconsider decision on S Durga, Nude | world cinema | Hindustan Times
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IFFI 2017: 6 jury members write to I&B minister to reconsider decision on S Durga, Nude

Six members of the jury, who wrote a letter to the I&B minister Smriti Irani, include Hari Vishwanath, Satarupa Sanyal, Ruchi Narain, Suresh Heblikar, Gopi Desai and film critic Sachin Chatte.

world cinema Updated: Nov 21, 2017 13:38 IST
HT Correspondent
Nude and S Durga were dropped from the Indian Panorama section of IFFI despite the jury’s nod.
Nude and S Durga were dropped from the Indian Panorama section of IFFI despite the jury’s nod.

The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2017 got off to a sizzling start, thanks to the presence of a bevy of Bollywood actors as such Shah Rukh Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Sridevi and her daughter Janhvi Kapoor.

In the shadow of IFFI inauguration, six members of the jury have written a letter to the Information and Broadcasting minister Smriti Irani. They officially expressed their concern on removal of S Durga and Nude from the list of films to get screened at the festival, and urging her to reverse her decision, reports The Wire.

The jury members include filmmakers Hari Vishwanath, Satarupa Sanyal, Ruchi Narain, Suresh Heblikar, Gopi Desai and film critic Sachin Chatte.

The letter, signed by jury members, reads: “We write this letter to you to voice our concern with regard to the issue of the exclusion of feature films Nude (directed by Ravi Jadhav) and S Durga (directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan) from the Indian Panorama section, and the necessity of finding a solution to the issue at hand as the issue has more far reaching implications for the sanctity of the system put into place after years of work by the ministry.”

Expressing their views on the way the two films were removed, they added that the films “were removed without any intimation, discussion or recourse to the jury which has the final say according to the Indian Panorama regulations”. “All our written correspondence to DFF (Directorate of Film Festivals) and NFDC (National Film Development Corporation of India) in the matter went unheeded and there was no response or acknowledgement of the same.”

Union Minister for Textiles and Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani during the opening ceremony of 48th edition of International Film Festival of India 2017 in Goa on Monday. (IANS)

The letter further said that such a step would “set a negative image of the very bodies that have worked hard to create a festival and selection that have garnered a respectable standing over the years”.

Defending their choice of S Durga and Nude, they said that the films were “relevant in terms of a larger conversation on gender, as well as on women empowerment”. The six jury members urged the minister to give the two films “under dispute a fair chance to be viewed”.

On November 13, the I&B ministry overruled a decision taken by IFFI 2017 jury and removed two films, Malayalam film S Durga (Sanal Kumar Sasidharan) and Marathi film Nude, a step that shocked many in the industry and prompted head of IFFI’s Indian Panorama (the two films were included in this category) Bollywood director Sujoy Ghosh to resign. Soon after, two more members of the jury stepped down.

Bollywood filmmaker Rahul Rawail, known for films such as Betaab and Anjaam, was made the new chairperson of IFFI’s Indian Panorama, replacing Ghosh.

Vani Tripathi Tikoo responds

Defending the step, IFFI steering committee member Vani Tripathi Tikoo, said the entire controversy was unnecessary.

“There are three important verticals to the whole situation. One is that 22 films were selected by the jury while the cap was 20. Two films had to go, which the jury knew from the beginning. It is beyond our comprehension why 22 films had to be sent. Anybody whose films would have been dropped would have created a brouhaha,” the Times of India quoted her as saying.

Clearing the air, Tikoo continued, “As far as Nude and S Durga are concerned, there are two technical issues with the films. S Durga had come as Sexy Durga for approval to the ministry, and it was not approved for MAMI (Mumbai Film Festival). So can the ministry be hypocritical and approve the film for one festival and not for another? The filmmaker has gotten it censored and changed the name to S Durga now, but for the Panorama he had submitted the original unapproved version. And the third and the most baffling issue is, why is Mr Sujoy Ghosh sending his resignation on an email, sitting outside the country, to the media? Why did he not approach the ministry and open a dialogue?”

Responding to the charge that the jury members were not informed or given an explanation about the decision, Tikoo said, “Didn’t Rahul Rawail (one of the jury members) say that any member who is saying that he/she did not know about this, is lying? If he was consulted, how can the other 10 members not be consulted? Also, at the end of the day, it is a government-run festival, and they have to be responsible about it. There are sensibilities and sensitivities involved. They become liable for the exhibition of that content. This is not a privately-run festival. And anybody who is making this into a freedom of expression debate is also doing a discredit to the dialogue that this festival opens up between the industry and the government. They will harm their own cause.”

S Durga, Nude and IFFI 2017

For the uninitiated, Sanal Sasidharan’s S Durga (formerly Sexy Durga) deals with the larger issue of women’s safety in India while Nude is the story of an indignant young woman who works as a nude model for art students in Mumbai.

Both Sasidharan and Jadhav have expressed their disappointment at the way their films were treated. Reacting to I&B Ministry’s decision, Sasidharan said what the ministry was doing was “unconstitutional and unprecedented thing”.

Jadhav responded with sadness to the news of Nude being dropped. “I am really disappointed, and I am 100% sure that they [the ministry officials] have not seen the film and have merely gone by its title. We have handled the subject aesthetically and sensitively,” he was quoted by Scroll as saying.

Reacting to the issue of film’s theme, he added, “Just like medical students need bodies for post mortems, art students need nude models for studying painting.”

“Nude models and nude paintings have existed since ages. This movie is about one such woman, who cannot tell her family what she is doing but needs to work to bring up her son. I have handled the subject responsibly. I am a father of two kids, and I want them to watch the film too. I also have great respect for these models.”

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