Malayalam director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan today filed a petition in the Kerala High Court against the Information and Broadcasting ministry and IFFI officials over his film "S Durga" being dropped from the Panorama section of the festival.
Overruling the recommendation of the 13-member jury, the Information and Broadcasting ministry pulled out Sasidharan's film "S Durga" and the Marathi movie "Nude" from the 48th edition of the film festival, to be held in Goa from November 20 to 28.
"I want the ministry to go by the rule and not overlook the jury's decision. They should behave like a democracy, not a dictatorship," Sasidharan told PTI.
He said he wanted the ministry to implement the jury's decision and include films in the final list.
The respondents in his petition include the Union of India, represented by the secretary to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Directorate of Film Festivals, Chairman, Jury for Feature Films and the Indian Panorama, 48th International Film Festival of India, Goa.
According to the petition, the ministry "arbitrarily vetoed the decision of the jury without any authority of law, and excluded the petitioner's film from the Indian Panorama section, without notice to the petitioner, and also without assigning any reason."
The film, a road movie that follows the horrifying experience of two hitchhikers, a man and a woman, at the hands of two men in the dead of the night, won the Hivos Tiger Award in the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2017.
The petition states that some fringe elements protested against the film, based on their misunderstanding that the original title "Sexy Durga" referred to Goddess Durga.
"Without understanding the context and setting of the movie, such fundamentalist groups acting with ulterior motives, opposed the film and even issued threats to the petitioner, on a baseless notion of hurting religious sentiments."
The film has nothing against Goddess Durga, or any other religious icons, states the petition. It has no vulgarity or obscenity, and the ones opposing movie have not made any attempts to watch or understand the nuances of the film, it adds.
Following the controversy, filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh has resigned as head of the jury of IFFI's Indian Panorama section.
Several jury members have also expressed their displeasure over the ministry's move to drop the films from the list they submitted.
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