Stuck in the Crossfire: Makers of Films Replacing S Durga & Nude
Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to drop Sanal Sasidharan’s S Durga and Ravi Jadhav’s Nude from the Indian Panorama section of the prestigious film festival IFFI has caused quite a stir. On one hand, Kahaani director Sujoy Ghosh resigned from his position as the IFFI jury chief because the films were removed without the jury members being informed and on the other hand, jury member and filmmaker Rahul Rawail says he was informed about the decision.
Amid the chaos, the two people who are stuck in the crossfire are filmmakers Bidyut Kotoky and Amartya Bhattacharyya whose films Xhoixoboite Dhemalite and Khyanikaa are set to replace S Durga and Nude.
Bidyut Kotoky is a National award winning filmmaker and his recent Assamese film, Xhoixoboite Dhemalite (Rainbow Fields) has garnered a lot of critical acclaim in the foreign film festival circuit. The film also bagged the Best Foreign Film Award in the Hollywood International Cinefest 2017.
This film is set in the violent Assam of the 80s. At that time Assam was burning and he as a child had seen violence from very close quarters. He always wanted to tell this story and then the birth of his daughter in 2013 made him relive those times all over again. But today when he should be happy about his film getting selected in IFFI, he finds himself in a tough spot - an ambiguous place.
I applied with all integrity and I forgot about it. Unfortunately I am in a very sad place caught in a crossfire. I don’t know anything, I don’t know what is the story. I read today that Sujoy Ghosh resigned which is very sad. Nobody has told me what has happened. I am happy I am there. I am not influential enough to make anybody select my film. Nobody knows about me. I think it’s very unfair that I am being dragged in this.Bidyut Kotoky , Filmmaker
Just like any other filmmaker, Kotoky vehemently supports freedom of speech.
To be very honest if you see my old Facebook post when there was a controversy about S Durga not being selected in MAMI, I was one of the first one to put it up signing that thing, saying that you need freedom of expression. I don’t know the filmmaker I have never seen the film, my whole point was that if a film is being stopped it is wrong, you cannot curb the freedom of expression. I may not agree with what you are saying but if I believe in freedom of expression, then I will defend it with my life that it’s your right to say it.Bidyut Kotoky , Filmmaker
Odia filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharyya is in the same place as Kotoky. His Odiya film Khyanika-the Lost Idea was premiered at Hidden Gems Film Festival in Canada. The film is a fantasy driven tale of two men, a poet and a painter, claiming possession over the same idea. The Quint got in touch with the filmmaker who also focuses on another issue. According to Bhattacharyya, mainstream cinema and mainstream jury consumes the entire space and leaves no room for independent voices, which is unfair.
It’s very unfortunate if any films were removed even after getting selected. That shouldn’t happen. But at the same time, if a film as experimental and unique as Khyanikaa doesn’t make it to the Indian Panorama, you aren’t doing justice to “the future of cinema”. I have unfortunately (or fortunately) seen some of the films in the selected list which are not in the list of five mainstream films, but are very mainstream in taste and commercially successful films. The purpose of an IFFI or any festival should not be to celebrate the already celebrated films. If you can’t discover new age films, you’re doing injustice to the future of cinema. So, while I am completely against removal of any films after selection, I wouldn’t ever justify an undiscovered indie like Khyanikaa being left out.Amartya Bhattacharyya, Filmmaker
But when it comes to freedom of expression all the filmmakers are on the same page. While he is happy about his film being selected, he still finds it unfair to remove films from the screening list on the basis of their content.
No, it is not fair to remove a film because of it’s content. Cinema should be judged based on the language of cinema and based on the sense of aesthetics and other technical parameters deployed in its making. An artist needs to express. Whether all those films in controversy are artistic or not is a different question, but I’m in support of complete freedom. Yes, if the content is not suitable for children, it should be rated ‘A’. But that should be it! There should not be any censorship to ‘A’ rated films, and there shouldn’t be any intent to choke the voices of artists. One has every right to disagree, but one shouldn’t forcefully try to stop an artist from expressing his views. I think we are trying to bring a sense of homogeneity and uniformity in everything which is very dangerous in a country as diverse as ours.Amartya Bhattacharyya, Filmmaker
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