Cong halts screening of Midnight's Children at IFFK

Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children” was stopped from screening on Tuesday following protests by the Congress, a day after its premiere at the International Film Festival cof Kerala (IFFK) here.

The party alleged that the film portrays India and Indira Gandhi in poor light and demanded a ban on the movie. Left with no choice, the organisers, Kerala Chalachitra Academy under the Culture Department, have bowed to their pressure.  

Congress leaders argued that it was due to them that the film was denied permission at the Goa International Film Festival and screening the film in Kerala could not be justified.
“This film has been screened at the IFFK as some organisers took undue interest,” alleged Congress leader and former minister Pandalam Sudhakaran.

The film, based on Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel, was given a standing ovation after the premiere on Monday. The overwhelming response of the delegates forced K B Ganesh Kumar, the minister in charge of IFFK, to watch the screening sitting on the floor. The film was screened at three other venues at the festival.

After the show, Deepa Mehta and producer David Hamilton were showered with accolades by the delegates. She shared her experiences, bitter and sweet, during the making of the movie.

The director also told the audience how she managed to rope in Rushdie for writing the screenplay and rendering it in the film.

Mehta said Rushdie had a healthy and pragmatic disregard for his own work. “Whenever it was pointed out that certain portions of the book will not work in a movie, he was the first person to second the opinion,” she recalled.

It has almost become a habit with Mehta and Hamilton to premiere their films at the IFFK.
“It was in Kerala that ‘Fire’ was premiered. And when ‘Water’ was caught in all sorts of controversies, it was IFFK that invited me to premiere the movie. I could not think of a better place for ‘Midnight’s Children’,” she said.

Meanwhile, K B Ganesh Kumar’s estranged father and former Kerala minister R Balakrishna Pillai  said that the film should not have been screened because it “shows Indira Gandhi in poor light.”

 Pillai heads the Kerala Congress (Pillai), an ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala. Both father and son have been at loggerheads since long.

Kumar said the controversy is needless. “A cinema should not be seen politically. Those who are airing opinions are those who have not seen the film. But I felt sad when at the end of the film the Indian map was shown... it was without Kashmir,” he said.

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