Meanwhile, following in the footsteps of chairperson Sujoy Ghosh, editor Apurva Asrani has also resigned from the jury of the IFFI Panorama section against the dropping of the aforementioned films; Vivek Agnihotri counters allegations

Mumbai Mirror (November 11) was the first to report that the 13-member jury for the 48 th International Film Festival of India’s (IFFI) Panorama section was upset that Ravi Jadhav’s Marathi film Nude and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Malayalam thriller Sexy Durga (now retitled as S Durga) were dropped from the final list of 26 feature films issued by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry without consulting them. Two days later, the chairperson of the jury, Sujoy Ghosh, resigned in protest.

On Tuesday afternoon, National Award-winning editor and a senior jury member, Apurva Asrani too resigned. “I stand with the chairperson of the jury. We’ve had a responsibility towards some very sincere films, and somewhere we have failed them. My conscience won’t allow me to participate in the festivities in Goa. However, I wish all the other films good luck. Each one of them has been made with a lot of love and no controversy should take away from that,” Apurva said.

Lauding Sujoy for his courageous act, Sasidharan took to the social media to inform, “I am also doing my bit, I have filed a writ petition before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala against the unprecedented, illogical and unconstitutional decision taken by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.”

After being denied censor exemption twice, his film had been finally cleared by the Censors after he agreed to change the title from Sexy Durgato S Durga and screened at the MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving Images) Film Festival. His advocate, Manu Sebastian, told Mirror, “We have filed a writ petition today challenging the decision of the I&B Ministry for excluding our film from Indian Panorama. The case was heard today and the court has sought an explanation from the government on Thursday. In this case the jury’s decision was final and if the ministry cannot provide a satisfactory explanation, their decision can be ruled as arbitrary action.”

Meanwhile, Jadhav admitted that he has been in touch with Sasidharan and is following in his footsteps. “I have applied for a censor certificate today and am also planning to move the Bombay High Court, asking for an explanation from the ministry for dropping Nude,” he said. He added that there is a likelihood of the ministry arguing that it was rejected because it was not a technically complete film. He refuted it saying, “I sent a screener to the Directorate of the film festival three months ago and we were ready with a DCP of the complete film but no one asked for it. We are ready to showcase the film at any point.”

Meanwhile speaking to Mirror on condition of anonymity, a jury member said that till late on Tuesday, the ministry had not reacted to either Sujoy and Asrani’s resignations. He went on to inform that some jury members have now written to the ministry pointing out that in wake of the chairperson’s resignation, they would wish it to reconsider its decision, watch the two disputed films in the same light as the jury had seen them and then arrive at a decision in consultation with the jury. “We’re awaiting a response to that mail too,” added the member.

Filmmaker Nikkhil Advani and another jury member when quizzed on the subject, told Mirror, “It’s extremely sad that we were not informed about the exclusion of the films. I respect the stand that Sujoy has taken but, more importantly, I am requesting the persons concerned to watch the films in contention and take an informed decision, preferably in consultation with the jury members.”

When asked if he would be attending the festival, Advani said that he was uncertain, as he might have to attend a shoot of a show he is producing. “However, the important thing is that 19 other films have also been chosen whose filmmakers have worked extremely hard to tell some very relevant stories and we need to champion these films along with the films that have been so unfairly left out,” he asserted.

Filmmaker and jury member Ruchi Narain who had earlier told Mirror that the final list that had come out does not match the list submitted and she personally felt that Nude and S Durga were stunning quality films which festival audiences would really appreciate, echoed Advani’s views.

“I respect Sujoy’s decision as chairperson, his actions speak volumes, more than words can say. But as a jury member I won’t be resigning,” she stated, pointing out that they spent a month choosing films and while these two did not make it to the final list, there were others films too selected by them. “I don’t want to take away from the merit of the other films that we select and that are being shown. Right now, the controversy is around Nude and S Durga but there are other good films that need to be watched and lauded so I don’t wish to officially disassociate myself from the Panorama.”

Vivek Agnihotri, convenor of the preview committee of IFFI, said, “If Sujoy and Apurva are within their rights to resign and Sanal to move court, then even the minstry is within its rights to choose 20 of 22 films selected by the jury. Nude came with the rider from the jury itself that it was an incomplete film. So I don’t understand what the controversy is about. IFFI is a Government of India initiative.”

Apurva Asrani, Sujoy Ghosh, Ravi Jadhav, Sanal Sasidharan

A still from Nude; S Durga (above)