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S Durga row: I&B ministry to convey jury decision to high court; 'mockery of judiciary', says Sanal

The Indian Panorama jury's decision on screening Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's S Durga at IFFI will be given to the I&B ministry, which will hand it over to the Kerala high court, which will then issue an order.

A still from S Durga (2017)


Guarded by muscled bouncers and an armed police picket, the Indian Panorama jury at the International Film Festival of India in Goa last night claimed to have decided the fate of Sanal Kumar Sasidharan's controversial film S Durga, but the panel's acting head, director Rahul Rawail, said the decision would be formally conveyed by the Union information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry to the Kerala high court.

Reacting to the development, Sanal Kumar said the prolonged delay amounts to a mockery of the judicial order to screen the film at IFFI and that the aim of the festival organizers was to ensure that the film was not screened. The festival ends today.

Emerging from a five-hour meeting of the jury at the Kala Academy in Goa, Rawail spoke briefly to the media and said he could not elaborate on the issue as the matter is "subjudice".

"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.

Another jury member, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a majority had voted for the film to be screened at IFFI.

Asked about the new jury members, directors Satish Kaushik and Vivek Agnihotri and Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhary, Rawail refrained from making any comment, keeping up the 'subjudice' refrain.

But sources said the trio was appointed to the panel as replacements to the three members who resigned in protest against the I&B ministry's decision to drop S Durga and Ravi Jadhav's Nude from the Indian Panorama screening schedule.

The jury meeting to screen the film was first scheduled for 6pm yesterday but was later suddenly moved up to 5pm. Bouncers and armed police guarded the jury who watched the 1.25-hour film and then discussed it threadbare for almost four hours.

Kaushik and Choudhury, two of the first jury members to emerge from the marathon meeting, told reporters that it would be improper for individual members to comment on the collective decision of the panel.

After Sanal Kumar had moved it, the Kerala high court had directed IFFI to screen the film at the festival after screening a certified version for the jury. An appeal by the I&B ministry to stay the order was rejected by the court on Friday.

Speaking to the IANS news agency, Sanal Kumar said Rawail's comment that the decision of the jury would be conveyed to the court and that 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 organizers sat on it for three days. They are just delaying it to ensure that the film is not screened at IFFI this year," the director said.

He also called the inclusion of new members on the jury "illegal" and said a systematic attempt is being made to destroy institutions like IFFI. "Next round, they should just scrap the jury and let the ministry decide which movie should be screened," he said. "That way there will be no controversy."

The director also said IFFI's battle against a filmmaker like him would deter young filmmakers from taking up uncomfortable issues and platforms for independent films would 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 remarked.

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