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Movie About 1921 Malabar Riots – Kerala High Court Strikes Down CBFC’s Direction to Delete Scenes

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Kerala High Court has set aside the decision of the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) certifying the Film “Puzha Muthal Puzha Vare” for public exhibition restricted to adults subject to some modifications. The film is about the real incidents of anti-Hindu Malabar Riots 1921 that happened in different parts of Kerala.

The Bench of Justice N. Nagaresh was dealing with a plea by Malayalam Film Director Ali Akbar who had alleged that the CBFC had infringed his fundamental right. Senior Advocate P. Ravindran appeared for the petitioner whereas Advocate Manu S. DSGI appeared for CBFC.

Ali Akbar is a director of the Malayalam film industry and reverted to Sanatan Dharma in January 2022 and the director changed his name to Ramasimhan.

The petitioner submitted an application to the CBFC seeking the certification of the film “Puzha Muthal Puzha Vare”. The film certification body referred the movie to a revising committee. The revising committee comprised of 10 members examined the movie and by majority decision (7/10), decided to issue ‘A’ certification to the movie with minor cuts.

Subsequently, the Chairman of CBFC again referred the film to a second revising committee. The petitioner argued that the decision of the Chairman of CFBC to refer the film to the second revising committee is illegal and arbitrary.

The board informed director Ali Akbar that it has decided to certify the film for public exhibition restricted to adults after carrying out modifications as recommended.

The petitioners urged that although the modifications recommended are 12 in number but in effect, modifications will be much more than 12 leading to undermining the soul of the movie.

On examining the film, three members of the Examining Committee recommended denial of certification to the film as those members found that the film contained visuals as well as dialogues which are likely to endanger public order.

The Regional Officer sent the recommendations of the Committee members to the Chairman of the Board. The Chairman referred the film to a revising committee. The Revising Committee consisted of a Presiding Officer and seven members. Five of the members of the eight member Revising Committee were of the opinion that the film can be certified with an adult rating with seven modifications. The remaining three members felt that the minority community was shown in a very poor light.

On receipt of the report of the Revising Committee, the Chairman of the Board deemed it necessary to refer the film to a second Revising Committee. The second Revising Committee unanimously agreed that the film can be given adult certification subject to moderation of scenes of excessive and repeated atrocities shown.

The Court noted that when five out of eight members of the Revising Committee approved the film with seven modifications, the Chairman had option either to accept the recommendation of the Revising Committee or if the Chairman disagrees with the decision of the majority of the Committee, refer the matter to the Board for examination of the film. The Court noted that the action of the Chairman referring the film to a second Revising Committee is illegal and is in violation of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 and the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983.

Accordingly, the Court set aside the Order referring the movie to a second Revising Committee and the Order certifying the Film for public exhibition restricted to adults subject to moderation of scenes of excessive and repeated atrocities.

1921 Malabar genocide of Hindus

The Malabar genocide of 1921 was a campaign of Hindu genocide in Kerala. The genocide, orchestrated by the likes of Variankunnath Kunhamad Haji, Ali Musaliar and others, led to the death of 10,000 Hindus in Kerala. It also led to more than one lakh leaving Kerala in the wake of the massacre. Hundreds of Hindu temples were destroyed in this genocide.

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