Nude and S Durga out of IFFI Panorama, despite the jury choosing them, is appalling

What is the point of appointing a jury at public expense if the government is going to arbitrarily overrule it?

 |  4-minute read |   12-11-2017
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What, pray, what is the meaning in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry appointing a jury, headed by an eminent director like Sujoy Ghosh (with some decent works like Kahani, Kahani 2: Durga Rani Singh and Satyanweshi) and aided by helmers like Nikkhil Advani and Gyan Correa, asking them to choose 21 titles for the Indian Panorama (of the International Film Festival of India/IFFI) from the 153 submitted in an exercise lasting about 18 days – and finally overriding the decision taken by the panel?

The 13-member jury met in Mumbai this year, and as usual was put up in five-star comfort – the money obviously coming out of the public exchequer.

I have no quarrel with this, but having spent this huge money of yours and mine, the government, in what seems like a brazen and ill-conceived decision, dropped two movies – S Durga (name amended from Sexy Durga) and Nude – from the list of 21 titles selected by the jury without even a by your leave!

I am told that such a step violates Clause 8.5 of the Indian Panorama 2017 Regulation, which clearly states that “the decision of the juries shall be final and binding, and no appeal or correspondence regarding their decision shall be entertained".

The Ghosh panel had reportedly told the government that an explanation must be given in the event of any change in the list. But no such thing was done, and obviously the members of the jury are peeved over the fact that after they took time off from their busy schedules and sat through hours and hours of screenings, their choice was tampered with.

What is more, the panel was not even consulted before a couple of replacements were decided to fill in the slots that went vacant after S Durga (in Malayalam) and Nude (Marathi) were banished from the list.

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I have not seen Nude, but have read reports about it. Directed by National Film Award winner Ravi Jadhav, the film is based on his own experiences as a student of the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai. It tells the story of a poor woman who works as a model without letting her family know about it. Jadhav has said that the nudity in his movie “is presented aesthetically”. There is nothing offensive or titillating.

In fact, Ghosh and his team suggested that Nude open the Indian Panorama, an important part of IFFI, which runs in Goa's Panaji from November 20 to 28. But this honour has now been given to Vinod Kapri's Pihu – about a two-year-old girl left alone at home. (Does this remind you of Home Alone?)

By the way, I have never understood why nudity is considered a no-no on screen. Why are sex and even kissing considered – in this day and age – inappropriate? To me, this is clearly a case of double standards. For, look at the kind of “item” songs and dances freely allowed on the screen.

They are downright vulgar, and most certainly demean the dignity and well-being of a woman. Yet, so many of our films include an item song/dance. Here we see a woman skimpily clad, dancing provocatively and often surrounded by bare-chested men, who make lewd gestures and remarks.

Sanal Sasidharan’s S Durga – which I have seen – is a movie that should have never been dropped from the Panorama. The young helmer, Sasidharan, who had earlier made a gripping work called An Off-Day Game (whose climax was completely unanticipated), has given us an equally mesmeric S Durga.

Here we see a young couple running away perhaps from home and trying to thumb a lift on a lonely road in the middle of the night. They have to reach a train station, and are on their way to Chennai, and a small van stops by and picks them up. There are two sozzled men in it, and this is the beginning of the couple's nightmarish night.

Mind you, Sasidharan does not throw in violence, not at all. No rape here. No fights. No sickles. But the helmer's marvellous way of hinting at violence instils a deep sense of fear not only in the man and the woman, but also in the viewer.

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I remember watching the work with some unease – uneasy about the million things that could go wrong that night on the Kerala highway. Will the man be beaten up, or worse killed? Will the woman be raped? But no, nothing of this sort happened.

What Sasidharan conveyed in somewhat classic Hitchcockian style was the fear of fear. The fear of something terrible happening. This can be far more unnerving than actual violence.

It is highly disappointing that a work like S Durga is out of the Panorama – a film that has won several prestigious awards across continents, including a top prize at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. And, Nude, which Ghosh and his men felt was worthy of being the opener, has now been left by the wayside.

Also read: 5 reasons Padmavati matters to Rajasthan more than you think

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Gautaman Bhaskaran Gautaman Bhaskaran @gautamanb

The author is a writer, commentator and movie critic.

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