'SEXY DURGA' & 'NUDE' CONTROVERSY AT IFFI: Remember What Happened To Bandit Queen? Why Have We Forgotten Those Times?

What's happening at the IFFI?
This is my first year at the IFFI. I am with the Censor Board too, and spent three tumultuous years out there. I have many filmmakers who are my friends, and they have all gone all out to make this year's IFFI a grand event.

Smriti Irani Malhotra I & B Minister

And suddenly, the controversy of 2 films- Sexy Durga and Nude happened. I am very sad and disappointed about the tamasha that has happened since yeterday. Now, let me explain.

Nude was an incomplete film. It had not been completed when it was submitted to us. And it came with a rider from the jury. Rahul Rawail has spoken about this, and he will endorse it to you too. 

Nude Marathi Movie Poster

Tell me, how can an incomplete film be put up in a public exhibition space?

And Sexy Durga?
Well, Sexy Durga had violated the Censor norms. Plus, didn't it meet with issues regarding its screening at the MAMI? The Ministry surely cannot disallow it at one centre, and give a green signal at the other. Won't that be nothing but hypocrisy?

Sexy Durga Movie Poster

All the films that are being screened at the IIFI go through the Ministry. Like in MAMI and Trivandrum Film Festival, an approval has to be taken by the Ministry. The government has not done anything out of bound.

Moreover, IP Regulation 6.0 clearly states that the final discretion lies with the government.

And IFFI is a government festival. The government has to be sensitive and look at the larger picture, as far as the exhibition of content and reaction level is concerned. 

Piyush Pandey

I have been a part of the Steering Committee over the last 4 years and I can confidently say that not one person has picked up the phone and told us what to do. The independence and democracy of the festival has never got compromised and never will.

And, we are having it in Goa this time, a gorgeous centre with a global connect.

Above all, our I & B Minister Smriti Irani has set up a great Steering Committee- Prasoon Joshi, Piyush Pandey, Nagesh Kukunoor, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Bharat Bala--- people of repute and great understanding of cinema.

Prasoon Joshi

But the Chairman of the Jury, Sujoy Ghosh, rendered his resignation...
I want to ask Mr Sujoy Ghosh that if he had such a big issue then why is he sitting outside the country mailing his resignation to the media? Why didn't he pick up the phone on the Ministry? It boggles my mind.

In this whirlpool of who's right and who's wrong, you will see that the festival will stand tall.

I know of several people from not only the film industry but different walks of life who

At the end of the day, it's pretty simple. The government has used its discretion and nothing wrong with that.

If Nude was incomplete, how did it land up at IFFI?
Good you understand that. Isn't sending incomplete films a disservice? Would he have done that if he was sending his film to Cannes? It's simply insult of jury and the event. And mind you, it's not just the jury but different levels- why waste our time?

Go on...
Wherever there is government, there are sensitivities and sensibilities. Looking at our present cultural milieu and considering the fact that we have become a hyper-sensitive democracy, it is extremely important that the government looks into whatever is being put out in public domain.

And mind you, this is not controlling or curbing democracy. If the intention was to regulate content, wouldn't we have insisted on a Censor certificate? 

smriti irani malhotra i and b minister
nude marathi movie poster
sexy durga movie poster
piyush pande
prasoon joshi

When you don’t require a Censor Certificate, why would you not screen Sexy Durga just because it is still facing Censor problem?
Good question. But Sexy Durga was not approved by the Ministry for MAMI. You can’t be hypocritical and approve it for one festival and not for the other. It had an approval issue, which is valid today also.

Congress says that BJP is violating Freedom of Expression?

(Laughs) It doesn’t matter. Being in the Censor Board for three years, bahut paththar khaye hain. I have had enough brickbats. Frankly, I don’t remember which was the last country where a regulatory body for the certification of cinema was not under duress, including France, which is known to be most libertarian when it comes to filmmaking. Regulatory bodies are often seen as authorities that want to kill democracy but if that was the case, and I say this with immense responsibilty- you and me would not be having this discussion.

You think if any other government - other than BJP - had been in power, they would have screened these films?

You remember what happened to Shekhar Kapoor in Bandit Queen? I rest my case here. Let us remember those times also.

So, no government would...

(Cuts in) It’s not about the government. I have openly spoken about how CBFC should only be a certification body- and it is in public space. But today having been in the body for three years, and also being someone from the film fraternity, I want to say that if freedom was absolute, then there wouldn’t be a constitution and words like fundamental rights and directive principles would have no meaning. Freedom is not absolute anywhere, especially in an Indian context because we are a very sensitive democracy. And we can’t say we don’t give a damn about culture and sensitivity, our cultural milieu doesn’t allow it.

You said that we have become a hyper-sensitive democracy that you mentioned. Why so?

I think that’s because there are sections of society that feel marginalised. There are people who think that their identity is connected to their ethnic sensibilities. It’s not just the marginalised section, it’s also the women and children, it’s also animal rights. So when you look at a film, we have to keep a lot in mind. we need to have a deeper debate within ourselves on where we are heading.

Do you think that the Social Media has also played a role in making us a hyper-sensitive democracy?

I have great respect for the Social Media, annulitic space in 30 seconds, your mind changes. even a though to be  deep sensibility has crept into many people's lives that flex your life and art is psuedo- two banks of a river flowing through democracy, we ought to converge else more problems lie in store.

Its' said by certain sections that the Hindu card is being played out a bit strongly?

This strange perception does exist in certain sections. But the very fact that we are debating so much only implies  we have become over- democratic than ever, but like I said earlier, hyper-sensitive democracy it is.

It was felt that there was the hand of the government in determining the fate of every film at the Censor Board. Pahlaj Nihalani was believed to be a BJP man and...

(Laughs) Well, eventually the story did play out like that--- but it was not true. It ended up looking like an undemocratic body and that was not an easy story to tell. We need to look at the content sociologically, rather than only creatively. If we start looking at the movies as a producer, won't hell break loose? The thought process got a bit murky there. But the new I & B Minister Smriti Irani quickly rectified the situation. We have Prasoon Joshi now as Censor Chief, we have Gautami and Vidya Balan too. It's a great diaspora.

But how does one ascertain what's happening while the films are being censored? Aren't these guys inaccessible?

I don't think you need to ascertain kya ho raha as long as films are releasing in time and there is a celebration of cinema. The Censor Board should not be the commentators' box on a match bein played out below them. Such work should rather be done silently.

And now let me conclude, the IFFI this year will be a grand event. Someone tried to fracture that, but we didn't let that happen.

Image Source : Instagram/smritiiraniofficial/prasoonjoshi/youtube