Days after the Kerala High Court ordered the screening of the Malayalam feature film S Durga at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa, the makers of the film suffered a major blow on Tuesday.
In a letter dated November 28, the CBFC board said that the certification of the film directed by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan will be re-examined, citing issues regarding the title of the film. Claiming that they have received complaints from the IFFI jury, the board directed the filmmaker not to exhibit the film.
"The U/A certificate was granted to you subject to certain excision and modification which included the change in the title...However, now we have received complaints from the IFFI jury at Goa that the title of the film on the title card shown by the film maker as "S### (where # means rectangular white boxes) which has totally different implications and are effectively undermining and attempting to defeat the very basis of the title registration and changes effected thereby," reads the letter.
The decision comes on the very day that the prestigious IFFI is set to conclude in Goa.
The film that was earlier titled Sexy Durga was granted U/A certificate after the CBFC asked for several modifications and deletions.
The board accused Sanal of "deliberately violating" Rule 33 of the Cinematograph Act (Certification) Rules, 1983 and added that the invocation of Section 5E(1) (i) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 may be considered.
Sunit Tandon, the director of IFFI, for his part claimed that all steps were taken to ensure compliance with the Kerala HC's order. Following the court order, a special screening of the film was arranged for the jury on Monday evening.
However, in view of the CBFC order on the re-examination of certificate, the film cannot be exhibited till the issues are resolved, he said.
When TNM reached out to Sanal, the filmmaker who is currently in Goa, alleged that the central government has used the last resort to prevent his film from being screened at the IFFI.
"That the Ministry of Information and Technology (I&B) is making excuses to stall the screening of the film is as clear as daylight," Sanal said.
"This is a strong message they are sending out, that filmmakers must not make films that the government doesn't approve of. They have already tried all possible means to suppress my film. Now CBFC has raised this issue with the title card going by the words of four members in the jury, whose authority to be part of the jury is itself being questioned. They are just coming up with more excuses," Sanal said.
He feels that this is yet another move to target him.
"No doubt this is an explicit attack on an artist's freedom. The title was changed to comply by the CBFC norms," he added.
Sanal held a protest demonstration at the venue on Tuesday after receiving the letter, but asks: "What more can we do?"
Reports suggest that a special screening of S Durga will be scheduled at International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), set to begin in December.
Kala Chalachitra Academy Chairman Kamal said that S Durga will be screened as a mark of protest and political resistance against the Centre's move to prohibit the film's screening at IFFI.
However, with the CBFC deciding to re-examine the certification of the film, it will not be screened at IFFK either, Sanal said.