Guarded by muscled bouncers and an armed police picket, IFFI’s Indian Panorama panel jury on Monday claimed to have decided the fate of Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s film S Durga, but the panel’s acting head Rahul Rawail said that the jury’s decision would be formally conveyed by the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry to the Kerala High Court.
Reacting to the development, Sasidharan said that the prolonged delay amounted to the mockery of the judicial orders and that the aim of the IFFI organisers was to ensure that the film was not screened at the festival, which ends on Tuesday.
Emerging for a brief while out of the more than five-hour long meeting of the jury at the Kala Academy here, Rawail spoke briefly to the media, claiming he could not elaborate on the issue, as the matter was “sub judice”.
“The matter has been given to the Information and Broadcasting ministry, which will hand over to the Court and the order will come from the Court,” he told reporters, adding that the jury had arrived at a decision during the meeting.
A jury member speaking on condition of anonymity, however, said, that a majority of the jury had voted in favour of the film to be screened at the festival.
Asked about the new members, directors Satish Kaushik, Vivek Agnihotri and Editor-in-Chief of Zee News Sudhir Chaudhary, appointed to the jury, Rawail said, “The matter is sub judice.”
Informed sources said that the trio was appointed to the jury panel as replacements to the three jury members, who resigned in protest against the I&B Ministry’s decision to drop S Durga and Nude from the Indian Panorama screening schedule at the 48th International Film Festival of India.
The jury meeting to screen the film was first scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, but was later suddenly moved up to 5 p.m. Bouncers and armed police personnel guarded the jury members, who watched the 1.25 hour-long film, even as they discussed the film threadbare for the rest of the duration.
Kaushik and Choudhury, two of the first jury members to emerge from the marathon meeting told reporters, that it would be improper for individual jury members to comment on the collective decision of the panel.
After Sasidharan petitioned the Kerala high court, the Court directed IFFI to screen the film at the festival, after a censored version of the movie was screened for the jury.
An appeal by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to stay the court direction was also rejected by the court on Friday.
Speaking to IANS, Sasidharan said Rawail’s comment that the decision of the ministry would be conveyed to the court and then the Court would subsequently issue an order was a “mockery of the judiciary”.
“The Court has said, that the jury should see the censored version and the film should be screened at IFFI 2017. Instead, the festival organisers sat on it for three days. They are just delaying to ensure that the film is not screened at IFFI this year,” Sasidharan said, also calling the inclusion of new members to the jury panel as “illegal”.
He also alleged that a systematic attempt was being made to destroy institutions in India, like the IFFI.
“Next time round, they should just scrap the jury and let the ministry decide which movie should be screened (at IFFI). There way there will be no controversy,” he said.
The director also said, that IFFI’s battle against a filmmaker like himself, will deter young filmmakers from taking up uncomfortable issues and platforms for independent films like IFFI will take a beating.
“This is a clear message for young talented filmmakers, that if you make a film with an uncomfortable subject, it will not be screened. In the future they may even book you for an offence,” he said.