'No one wants to deal with something unsettling'

'No one wants to deal with something unsettling'

Real to reel

What is it for an independent filmmaker to fight cases, reach out to a public relations firm, look out for distributors and feel hopeful for a film like Ka Bodyscapes, after his earlier film, Papilio Buddha was banned in the country.

Director Jayan Cherian says he does not feel demotivated by these hurdles, as he has achieved ‘artistic gratification’ by finishing his film, and looks forward to the day when the Indian audience will get a chance to see it.

Ka Bodyscapes, a Malayalam film, was shown recently in the capital during a private screening. The film follows the timeline of Kerala in 2013 when protests broke out in many pockets, during which adolescents ‘used their body’ to agitate against the state.
It is about three young people, Haris, a gay painter; Vishnu, a rural kabaddi player and Haris’ partner and their friend Sia, an activist who refuses to conform to dominant norms of femininity and all of them struggle to find space and happiness in a conservative Indian city.

“All actors in the film are real life activists and the story is very close to their lives,” Cherian tells Metrolife. Sia in the film is the same girl who started the ‘Bloody Napkin Movement’ in 2013, after she was driven out of a bus after being suspected of menstruating.

The plot of the film was tweaked with another incident from real life — of women who were being forcefully stripped by women authorities in a glove factory where they suspected females for dirtying toilets.

Cherian may be sympathetic to the character of Haris, whose paintings were burnt before his exhibition even took place. They depicted naked men and men being intimate. Ka Bodyscapes was the name of that art exhibition. Cherian’s film also holds imagery of men, where they are sexualised and objectified by the camera. This kind of sexual portrayal is common to women in traditional and art films. But Cherian didn’t see what was coming before he decided to depict bare bottoms and sexual play between men in his film.

Now, he is fighting a case in Revising Committee of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) court for its approval and the film is waiting to be reviewed by Pahlaj Nihalani (present head of CBFC) and his team of twelve. At the same time, Cherian is busy screening this film worldwide.

“In traditional Indian cinema, be it Bollywood, Kollywood, or Tollywood, they try to maintain the status quo to get certified. No one wants to deal with something unsettling,” he says.

Cherian has independently directed, written and produced the film and he is ready to start free screenings for any audience who will be interested. “It will cause me financial loss, but I have made this film for the Indian audience and I would be happy if they get to watch it,” he says.

He explains that the Cinematography Act 1952 amendments are ‘for the purpose of sanctioning films for public exhibition’ and according to him it decides “what people should watch.” The Cinematography Act 1952, which comes from the British Cinematography Act 1922 was amended many times after. The paradox is that in today’s Britain, each show of Ka Bodycapes show was sold out at the BFI London Film Festival.
“Imagine that an artist has to go to a bureaucratic officer with his painting for his approval on it. In any democratic country this is abuse of power. As in, in no provision of law does it say that CBFC is allowed to intervene editorially in your film,” says Cherian.

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