The tides have swiftly turned for embattled filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, director of the controversial Malayalam indie drama Sexy Durga. In a massive and rather unexpected victory, the Kerala High Court yesterday directed the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) to screen Sexy Durga, overruling an arbitrary decision by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to remove it from a jury-selected list of films to be screened at the festival. The decision to not screen the film at IFFI also led to jury members Sujoy Ghosh, director Gyan Correa, and screenwriter Apurva Asrani resigning from their posts in protest.
Sasidharan’s troubles with Sexy Durga began back in February, when he was incessantly trolled and abused after a member of the Hindu Swabhiman Sangh insisted that the title Sexy Durga was disrespectful to Hindus. Sasidharan told Scroll.in that the title was meant to comment on how society claims to revere women as goddesses on the one hand and how it treats women on the other. In September, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B Ministry) refused to grant the movie permission to be screened at the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) held last month.
But now it seems Sasidharan’s luck is finally starting to change. News reports state that after the Kerala HC ruling, Sasidharan has decided to file a contempt of court case against the IFFI administration. He alleges that the body is evading this directive. The film festival opened on Monday and will close on November 28th.
IFFI director Sunit Tandon himself seems aware that time is running out: Manorama Online reports that it was “a literal run for life” at the IFFI when Tandon was questioned by the movie’s lead actor Kannan Nair about his stance on the High Court’s orders. Upon hearing the question, apparently Tandon hastily ran out of the venue, saying he could not answer the question.
Meanwhile, the tale of another ‘controversial’ film is chugging along as Gujarat has become the fifth state to ban the screening of Padmavati. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani said the move was to preserve the sentiments of the Rajput community, and the ban is apparently supported by both the Congress and the BJP. Exciting times all around.