No protests allowed at IFFI

By Ashwin Tombat
19 November 2017 12:02 IST

Three days before the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) begins in Panaji, the state government has imposed restrictions on all forms of protest in Panaji. Two areas far away from the scene of action — Campal Parade Ground and Azad Maidan — have been notified as venues for protests by North Goa Collector and District Magistrate Nila Mohanan.

The official reason is the possibility of "disrupting normal traffic... causing inconvenience to the public, besides... possible risk of breach of peace, and law and order problems". But the real reason is the dropping of two films from the festival. 

The Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry headed by Smriti Irani decided to drop opening film 'Nude' and 'Sexy Durga' (retitled as 'S Durga') from this year's IFFI. The official reasons are that Nude was "incomplete" and lacked a censor certificate, while S Durga could cause "law and order problems". 

But most people believe the real reason is that the names of the films were not 'Sanskari' enough for the I&B minister.

The content of the films is unexceptional. National Award-winning director Ravi Jadhav’s Marathi film Nude is the story of a young woman who works as a nude model. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Sexy Durga (later changed during the censorship process to S Durga)  which was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival, MAMI, is a dark social commentary.

There is no reason whatsoever for objecting to the name Nude. Durga is the name of a Hindu Goddess, but it's also a common name for people. The word 'sexy' has been part of Hindi film dialogue and even songs. This extreme sensitivity is not a good thing.  

The decision to drop the films was made without consulting the 13-member jury. Jury chairman Sujoy Ghosh and members Apurva Asrani  and Gyan Correa have since resigned.

Leading members of the Marathi film industry have since discussed a boycott of this year's IFFI and a protest against this decision at the festival. The first is unlikely to happen, as film makers have too much at stake. The second has now been made impossible by the above order.

The highly creative protests by students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in 2015 are probably fresh in Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's mind. The students were on strike, outraged at the appointment of 'B' grade film actor and producer Gajendra Chauhan as chairperson of their institute.

Normally, FTII students are given passes, travel allowance and accommodation to attend IFFI. That year, they were denied this privilege. Those that paid for delegate status and arrived in Goa at their own expense were illegally denied entry to IFFI, for fear that they may engineer a protest. Finally, the FTII students organised a tiny 'parallel film festival' in Panaji and staged a series of highly creative protests outside the venue. The protests were peaceful, fun to watch, and their principal objective was to make people aware of the reasons they were on strike.

But this time, even those kinds of protests will not be allowed.

On Thursday, at a Press Day function, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar asked mediapersons to separate fact from opinion while writing news stories. “News should be news and cannot be views. If you want to give views, you can present it as an analysis. But if something has not happened and someone prints it as if it has happened, I think that is the biggest disservice,” he said.

Mr Parrikar also said he had a track record of never having harassed journalists, even those who have had serious disagreements with him previously. He is right on both counts.

While he may legitimately claim tolerance about the media, regrettably, his government is showing an increasing intolerance of protests. Protest is basically a legitimate form of freedom of expression, the very same fundamental right that the media operates under.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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