The Kerala regional office of the Central Board of Film Certification has withheld clearance to a Malayalam film on a students’ protest, apparently after at least one pro-BJP board member linked the movie to JNU and dubbed it “anti-national”.

By K.M. Rakesh 

  1. Sandeep Kumar, board member and state vice-president of the BJP’s Scheduled Caste Morcha, later posted a tweet attributing his objections also to Varthamanam (The Present) being produced and written by Aryadan Shoukath, a Congress politician and filmmaker. Kumar later deleted the tweet.

he award-winning script writer said he had carried out several months of research and studies before penning the script and spent several days in Delhi to get first-hand experience of the culture and lifestyle in JNU campus. ‘We cannot send the movie for any award this time if we do not get the Censor Board clearance before December 31,’ he said.

Shoukath suspected that the nod for screening was denied on political grounds citing a recent tweet of a censor board member, who is also the state vice president of SC Morcha of the BJP. ‘Adv V Sandeep Kumar, a censor board member, recently tweeted that the permission was denied as Aryadan Shoukath was its script writer and producer. Now a days Censor Board has several political appointees who have no basic knowledge of cinema,’ he said.

Shoukath, the other day, also uploaded on his Facebook page the screenshot of the controversial tweet of the regional censor Board member. In his tweet, which was found removed later, Sandeep Kumar had said that he, as a member of the Board, was opposed to giving nod for the movie. ‘As a member of the Censor Board, I saw the movie Varthamanam. The theme was the persecution of Muslims and Dalits in the JNU agitation. I opposed it. Because Arydan Shoukath was its script writer and producer. Of course, the theme of the film was anti-national,’ the tweet said.

Violence broke out at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus early in January this year as masked men armed with sticks and rods attacked students and teachers protesting the fee hike and damaged property on the campus, prompting the administration to call in the police which conducted a flag march.

Coming down heavily on him, Shoukath, in his FB post, sought to know how a movie would become anti-national if it speaks about the students’ agitation in Delhi campus or the democratic movements in the country. ‘We are still living in India which is a democratic, secular and socialist country. Is it based on the clan and race of the script-writer that a film is given a nod for screening? The undeclared emergency situation in the cultural sector cannot be accepted,’ the script-writer’s FB post said.

Film sources here told PTI that when two censor board members, who are from the film industry, strongly supported the movie and wanted to give it a nod for screening, two others, who are political nominees, objected to it.

Shoukath said the CBFC had in a notice conveyed that the film, directed by Siddarth Siva, had been referred to its reviewing committee but not stated any reason or any date.

“As a member of the censor board (CBFC) I watched the film Varthamanam today,” Kumar’s now-deleted Malayalam tweet, posted on Thursday, said.

“The topic is the attack on Muslims and Dalits in JNU. I objected to it because the scriptwriter and producer is Aryadan Shoukath. The film’s content is definitely anti-national.”

The film portrays a Delhi institution but does not name JNU.

Shoukath expressed shock at the board’s decision and at his film on communal harmony being labelled “anti-national”. He suggested the objections were linked to his religion. Shoukath is a Muslim.

“Is a film certified based on the scriptwriter’s race and lineage? How can a students’ agitation on a Delhi campus and democratic struggles become anti-national?” Shoukath wrote on Facebook.

“He (Kumar) is openly declaring that the film relates to attacks on Dalits and Muslims at JNU and that he objected because its scriptwriter and producer is Aryadan Shoukath. We are still living in democratic, secular, socialist India.”

Varthamanam revolves round a Muslim student from north Kerala, played by Parvathy Thiruvothu, who goes to a Delhi college to research freedom fighter Mohammed Abdurahiman Sahib who served as president of the Congress’s Malabar unit in 1939. The film does not name JNU.

Roshan Mathew and Dain Davis play pivotal roles in the film, shot in Delhi, Uttarakhand and Kerala.

“I can’t imagine this film about communal harmony being portrayed as anti-national. I have information that two of the four members raised objections while the other two backed the film,” Shoukath told The Telegraph on Monday.

“It’s based on the theme of communal harmony and decries both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism. It focuses on the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Subhas Chandra Bose.”

Shoukath added: “Abdurrahiman Sahib was a true nationalist who dissuaded those Muslims who wanted to go to Pakistan. The film is about the values upheld by a man like him, based on the secular-democratic principles of the founding fathers.”

This newspaper could not contact Kumar for his comments since the state BJP office in Thiruvananthapuram said it didn’t have his phone number.

Actor and filmmaker Murali Gopi condemned the CBFC decision and called for an end to the board’s being used to further the ruling party’s agenda.

“Censorship is the crutch of dictatorship. If that has become the practice in a democracy, it can only mean that democracy has failed,” Murali, son of the legendary Malayalam actor Gopi, said in a Facebook post on Monday.

“Patriotism and nationalism are not words that should be limited to the vocabulary of a particular group. Since this is the reality, every artiste has the responsibility to raise their voice against such a tendency.”

Courtesy : The Telegraph