Uncertainty looms over the fate of Malayalam feature film ‘Ka Bodyscapes,’ as the film has been denied exemption certificate by the I&B ministry, and it’s screening maybe stalled at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).
Though the feature film was screened at a number of international film festivals, the film was refused permission to be screened in India, "where it was meant to be screened."
On Saturday, director Jayan Cherian filed a contempt of court petition against the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for failing to comply with a Kerala High Court order in October, directing the board to issue certification to the film.
Speaking to The News Minute over phone, New York-based Jayan Cherian said that the last date to submit the exemption certificate for the film festival to be held in December was November 25. Those films that are not certified to be screened in India, are given exemption certificate by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
“This is a clear case of contempt of court. Despite the Kerala High Court granting 30 days’ time to the board to issue certification with appropriate edits, the censor board has ignored the court’s order,” Jayan said.
Kerala HC asked the CBFC to issue certification to the film in October this year. The film was first submitted for certification in May last year.
‘Ka Bodyscapes,’ a collaborative effort by a number of gay rights activists in the state, had made headlines after the censor board’s examining committee and a revised committee denied certification to the film, citing that it humiliated Hindu religion.
A painting shown in the film was contested by the censor board, claiming that it showed Hindu god Hanuman in a bad light. However, Jayan says that the central character of the film being an artist, the painting is a representation of his partner flying with books, similar to how Hanuman carried the mountain.
Jayan says that this was an unprecedented move by the censor board, as it had not suggested any edits or changes, but had simply refused to issue certification.
“The fact that I&B ministry intervened in a cultural event of Kerala is itself something that was never heard of before. The ministry granted exemption certificates to as many as 170 films without certification. This is a clear indication that denying certification was a political decision, as the government is trying to suppress any kind of dissent. Sexuality chauvinism is in place…walk into any temple or museum in the country; you’d find graphic portrayal of Hindu gods. Yet, a romantic film on a gay couple, with no scenes of intercourse, gets treated in this manner,” Jayan said.
A still from the movie
He adds that the film was denied exemption certificate last month to be screened at a festival in Hyderabad, as the film was under litigation.
"What is more unsettling is that Malayalam cinema has always been bold in its form. Moreover, according to the Cinematograph Act, a film can only be banned if it compromises on national security. What security is a romantic film on a gay couple compromising? This is plain cultural fascism by an authoritative state," Jayan alleges.
Kerala State Chalachithra Academy which organises the IFFK will reportedly appeal to the ministry for exemption.