Censor Board refuses to clear film on Christianity

Censor Board refuses to clear film on Christianity

Matter of faith

Religious sensibility and artistic expression are, yet again, pitted against each other as the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) refuses to clear a new film that allegedly offends Christianity.

The film—“Pithavinum Puthranum” (In the name of The Father and The Son) directed by T Deepesh—is set in a Christian convent and discusses a “human story” without getting judgmental on faith, according to the film crew. They maintain that the denial of certification is an assault on creative liberties and the board has succumbed to pressure from groups that don’t want the film released. Censor Board officials, however, have a different take.

T Madhukumar, CBFC additional regional officer in Thiruvananthapuram, told Deccan Herald on Sunday that the question was not on content policing or giving in to pressure. “The board is an independent body that works under statutory stipulations. The film violates some of the guidelines that we follow during certification. We felt that people from a particular religion would find the film’s theme and certain visuals derogatory,” he said.

The official, along with four other members, watched the film last week.

The board, instead of suggesting cuts, straightaway denied certification saying mere cuts couldn’t have diluted the guideline violations.

“Pithavinum Puthranum” had earlier run into rough weather after its original title – “Pithavinum Puthranum Parishudhaatmavinum” (In the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit) – was announced. Madhukumar said the board had been receiving “complaints” from Christian groups and individuals even when the film was being shot.

He called the protests “natural” considering that the title referred to the Holy Trinity. “The protests, however, reached us long before the film was submitted. The denial of certification has no connection with them,” he said.

Deepesh refused to accept the board’s stand and said there had been pressure on its members. “We submitted the film on May 13. The normal certification time is three to four days but the board members watched my film 23 days later. It’s baffling that a film watched in its entirety only by me and my producer can attract protests even before it is submitted for certification,” the filmmaker said.

“Pithavinum Puthranum” lines up an interesting cast that includes filmmaker V K Prakash, eminent art director Sabu Cyril and Honey Rose. Deepesh said the film – though set on spiritual terrain – was primarily feminist and tried to dispel chauvinistic viewpoints.

Regulation, not appreciation: Deepesh alleged that the board had not spelt out the members’ issues with the film’s content and was instead maintaining the stand of a “government body”.

Madhukumar said the filmmakers had the option of sending the film to a 10-member revising committee – headed by acclaimed filmmaker Shaji N Karun – to obtain clearance. K Ananda Kumar, another CBFC member, said films that were denied certification by the examining committee have in the past managed to get cleared by the revising committee. The filmmakers, if faced with rejection by the revising committee, can also fight their case at a tribunal.

As the filmmakers prepare to take the film to the revising committee, Deepesh feels that amid the talk on regulations and guideline violations, the intent of the film is getting lost. “Things would’ve been different had we made this a comedy or a mindless entertainer and not the thinking, serious film that it is,” he said.