All over the Board

Link:  http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/all-over-the-board/article19490606.ece

Leena Manimekalai

Film under CBFC ireIs It Too Much To Ask

 

My latest documentary is about two transwomen friends trying to find an apartment in Chennai to rent. When I applied for CBFC certification, the Regional Officer in the Chennai office questioned me about showing the film to children, as the lead characters were neither men nor women! He certified it “A”. My feature Sengadal, The Dead Sea was banned, because they claimed it would affect “bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka.”

When I initially made films on caste and gender violence, my work was constantly turned down as the Censor Board feared that it would spark off riots.But the officers never knew that I had screened them across hundreds of villages and towns. In all these places, the films only created a discourse and not 

Festival Censorship is Quite Dangerous, Fascist In Motives: Leena Manimekalai

While interacting with News18.com, Leena maintained that she stands in solidarity with the three banned films and filmmakers.

Kriti Tulsiani |  News18.com@sleepingpsyche2

Updated:June 14, 2017, 12:53 PM IST

A battle that filmmakers have been fighting and unfortunately, will continue to fight, is the one with the censor board. While it’s a mandate for Bollywood directors to get CBFC’s nod and certification before the film’s release, the films screened at festivals do not necessarily require a censor certificate, but a censor exemption from the Union Ministry for them to be screened.

In what has cast a cloud over the 10th edition of the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerela (IDSFFK), the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has denied censor exemption to three documentary films broadly dealing with Jawaharlal Nehru University protests, the Rohith Vemula incident and on the unrest in Kashmir, without citing a specific reason.

Filmmaker Leena Manimekalai, whose documentary Is It Too Much To Ask will be running in the official competition at the forthcoming film festival, took to Facebook to announce that 160 filmmakers, artists, and academics have written to Mr Venkaiah Naidu, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, urging him to “stop its censorship regime and immediately provide exemption to the films they have prevented from being screened” at the festival.

Questioning the basis for denying screening permission to these films, they’ve also highlighted that each of these films deals with “prominent political issues that have led to much discussion within the country” in the letter addressed to Naidu.

“It is also clear that the government of the day is resorting to draconian action to stifle all such political debate and indeed Article 19 of our constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression to every citizen of this country,” read the letter.

While interacting with News18.com, Leena maintained that she stands in solidarity with the three banned films and filmmakers.

“This whole pattern of festival censorship is quite dangerous and fascist in motives. We’ve sent the collective statement and we’ll have to wait and see,” she said.

When asked if this kind of censorship poses a threat to quality cinema, she said, “Censorship is always a threat to sensible cinema. CBFC has to be trashed and this extra-constitutional censorship has to be resisted by all means. Else what is the meaning of democracy.”

Considering that CBFC chairperson, Pahlaj Nihalani, recently warned filmmakers of the strictest action to be taken against them – if they continue to take their films to International film festivals without censor board certification, this move has further set the alarm bells ringing.

“This Modi govt decides what to eat, what to watch, what to wear and what to speak. This Pahlaj Nihalani should go back to school and learn how the international cultural scene works. He is an embarrassment to even deal with,” she said.

“No international film festival bothers about a censor certificate,” she added.

PN Ramachandra’s The Unbearable Being Of Lightness, NC Fazil and Shawn Sebastian’s In The Shade of Fallen Chinar and Kathu Lukose’s March March March are the three documentaries to have invited the wrath of the central government this time.

Whether it’s a depiction of a trouble-torn Kashmir or a narration of the students protest at JNU and its aftermath or a tale ‘too women oriented’ – the decision to ban art, in the name of censorship, requires a serious justification so that it just doesn’t end up being a bane of the lives and minds of filmmakers across the country.

மாதவிடாய் என்பதால் ‘ஏ’ சர்டிஃபிகேட்!- சர்ச்சையில் மத்திய தணிக்கைக் குழு

 

https://www.vikatan.com/news/india/92441-phullu-a-film-on-mensuration-taboos-gets-a-from-cbfc-without-even-being-watched-by-the-review-committee.html

மாதவிடாய் பற்றி பேசினால் அந்தத் திரைப்படம் ‘ஏ’ சான்றிதழ் பெறவேண்டுமா? கவிஞர் மற்றும் திரைப்பட இயக்குநர் லீனா மணிமேகலை கூறுகையில், “கேரளா சர்வதேசத் திரைப்பட விழாவில் திரையிட இருந்த மூன்று படங்களை மத்திய தகவல் ஒளிபரப்புத் துறை அமைச்சகம் தடையே செய்தார்கள். சர்வதேசத் திரைப்பட விழாக்களில் திரையாகும் படங்களைத் தடுக்க அவர்களுக்கு எவ்வித அனுமதியும் இல்லை, ஆனால், அவர்களால் தடை செய்ய முடிகிறது. அதனால், இந்த படத்துக்கு ‘ஏ’ சான்றிதழ் கொடுத்திருப்பதில் ஒன்றும் அதிசயமே இல்லை. முன்பெல்லாம் இயக்குநர்கள் திரைப்படம் எப்படியெல்லாம் எடுக்க வேண்டும் என்றுதான் யோசிப்பார்கள், தற்போதைய சூழலில் எப்படியெல்லாம் எடுத்தால் படத்தை வெளியிட முடியும் என்கிற நிலைக்குத் தள்ளப்பட்டுள்ளார்கள். அதிகாரம், கலையைக் கொலை செய்வது நேரடியாகவே நடக்கிறது. அதீத வன்முறை இருக்கும் படங்களுக்கு யூ சான்றிதழ் தரப்படுகிறது. ஆனால், மக்களுக்குச் சென்று சேர வேண்டிய படங்கள் ‘ஏ’ சான்றிதழ் பெற்று கிடப்பில் போடப்பட்டு விடுகின்றன. பனோரமா விருதுபெற்ற திரைப்படங்களைத் தூர்தர்ஷன் பெற்றுக் கொள்ள வேண்டும் என்கிற சட்டம் இருக்கிறது. ஆனால், என் ‘செங்கடல்’ திரைப்படத்தைத் தூர்தர்ஷன் பெற்றுக்கொள்ளவில்லை காரணம் அது ‘ஏ’ சான்றிதழ் பெற்றதுதான். சமூக அக்கறையில் வெளிவரும் எந்தக் கலை வழி ஊடகத்தையும் காயடிக்கிறார்கள். மோடியின் அடிமை என்று தன்னை வெளிப்படையாகவே அறிவித்துக் கொண்டவர்தான் தற்போது தணிக்கை குழுவில் இருக்கும் பஹ்லஜ் நிஹ்லானி, உண்மையான கலை மற்றும் சினிமா ஆர்வம் மிக்கவர்கள் ஒன்றிணைந்து அவரைப் பதவி விலகச் செய்ய வைக்க வேண்டும், CBFC என்ற காலனிய அரசு தணிக்கை இயந்திரத்தின் எதேச்சதிகாரத்தைச் செயலிழக்க செய்ய வேண்டும். இல்லையெனில் இது போன்ற பிரச்சனைகள் தொடர்ந்தபடிதான் இருக்கும்” என்கிறார்

A beauty’s blog creates furore

April 10, 2012 

Her first Tamil poetry anthology Otraiyilaiyena (As a single leaf) saw three editions and the second one Ulagin Azhagiya Muthal Penn (The first beautiful woman in the world) invited mixed reactions like Iyal Poetry Award and a call for a ban by Hindu Makkal Katchi. Parathaiyarul Raani (Queen of sluts) her third collection was a reaction to all the moral policing.While her film Sengadal The Dead Sea was stopped from being screened to the public, until the Supreme Court’s Appellate tribunal intervened with regional censor board for the film clearance, groups like the Makkal Kalai Ilakiya Kazhagam attacked her beliefs. Adding to this list is the latest revelation that the Principal Secretary of IT Department of the Tamil Nadu government requested that her blog be blocked along with a host of others.
In a text sent from A.K. Kaushik, Additional Director & CPIO Cyber Laws & E-Security in response to an RTI petition on Website Blocking, it was reported that Leena’s bloghttp://ulaginazhagiyamuthalpenn.blogspot.com was requested to be blocked on 21.07.2010 by the Principal Secretary, IT Department.
This recent revelation has led to an outrage over the fact that artists and activists like Leena have had to constantly knock on the doors of the legal system to exercise the most basic of their rights.
In an interview from London where she is currently the Charles Wallace Visiting Scholar at the University of London, Leena says, “Center for Internet and Society in Bengaluru that works towards upholding Civil Liberties Online, had obtained a list of all websites that were sought to be blocked by Governmental authorities with the use of Right to Information Act.They sent me all the details on how my blog was one amongst them as the Principal Secretary, IT Department, Govt of TN had asked for it to be blocked. As the Internet’s role in free speech becomes increasingly prevalent, tactics to control the Internet are growing more refined each year. Methods of accessing private data and censoring content vary between countries, but all maintain an element of oppression. We, who are concerned about civil liberties should wake up to the secret missions of our government on Internet Censorship and protect freedom of speech online.
”Leena’s blog has been in the center of controversies before too.“Hindu Makkal Katchi, the right wing moral police lodged a police complaint to ban my poetry collections and ban my blog ulaginazhagiyamuthalpenn. blogspot.com. They went to every possible media house and were making threat calls and there were discussions on the alleged obscenity in my poems. They even wanted the Iyal International Poetry Prize and Sirpi Literary Awards to be revoked.”
Leena’s poetry challenges fanatic minds.“My poetry has a feminist agenda and it is just not about equal rights for women. It is a socialist, anti-institutional political movement which calls for women to break the code, destroy capitalism, live their sexuality and witch hunt every possible patriarchal design. I am not amused about the fact that my poetry gave jitters to ultra blasphemous right and left wingers,” she concludes.

‘A Conversation about Sengadal – Rediff.com’

 

http://www.rediff.com/movies/slide-show/slide-show-1-south-interview-with-leena-manimekalai/20111230.htm

Last updated on: December 30, 2011 13:56 IST

Shobha Warrier in Chennai

The average cinemagoer in Tamil Nadu might not even have heard of a film called Sengadal –The Dead Sea.
But the film was the only Tamil entry at the International Film Festival of India in Goa this year.
It has also won several international awards. More than a film, it is a political statement by Leena Manimekalai, an engineer-turned-filmmaker. The film is about the sufferings of fishermen caught in the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis.
Though Sengadal is her first feature film, Manimekalai has made 10 documentaries and won several awards at various international film festivals and has just been selected for the Charles Wallace Fellowship.
Before leaving for London for the fellowship programme on documentary film-making, Manimekalai spoke to Shobha Warrier on how Sengadal was made and received.
What was the inspiration behind Sengadal? Is it the culmination of all the documentaries you have made so far?
As I come from a political family of Communists, I was directly and indirectly involved with the Sri Lankan crisis throughout my youth. I was part of a group that was involved in the anti-war movement and India’s stance in the war. Documentary filmmaking was an extension of my activism.
In 2009, the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka was at its peak. The air you smelt and the noise you heard were filled with human cries. I could not but get involved in it more directly. That was how I got involved with the fishermen’s movement. The stories the fishermen and women from the Rameswaram area shared with me were horrifying. Every household had lost at least one person to the sea.
I wanted to convey through the film that they wanted to live in peace and be treated like human beings. My film is a documentation of the time from January to May 2009.
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A scene from Sengadal
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Did the line between documentary and feature film blur while making Sengadal?
You may wonder whether it is real or captured. That is very intentionally done. I wanted to capture the lives of those people and whatever tools helped me as a filmmaker, I used them.
Did you use real people in the film?
Yes, there were no actors in my film; all are real people. It is actually a community participatory work.
Why do you then call it a feature film, and not a documentary?
Because it is not a documentary. I had made 10 documentaries before, and I would call a documentary, a documentary. This film is based on a bound script. I only used real people to act in my film, that’s all. We had a series of workshops to teach them how to act in front of the camera.

Image: A scene from Sengadal

 
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What kind of ground work did you do before you started making the film?
It took six months of research and 100 hours of sharing their stories. I interviewed hundreds of fishermen and women, police officials, intelligence officials. Through NGOs, I visited refugee camps.
How difficult was it?
It was very difficult, as difficult as the fishermen’s lives. There is a meta-fiction of a filmmaker in the film. A filmmaker is trying to film the fishermen’s lives and she gets constantly interrogated and harassed, her tapes were confiscated and she fails to make the film.
But you made the film…
It almost happened with me. Every time I went to do research, I was stopped by the Navy, police, etc. I only had the love and trust of the fishermen and nothing else. That’s from where I gained courage and it saved me from many critical issues.
It was a community participatory work. Every scene and dialogue was drawn from their lives. When we were shooting in the sea and when a Navy plane flew over us, the fishermen hid us film-makers under a net.

Image: A scene from Sengadal

 
A scene from Sengadal
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Why did you call the film Sengadal which means ‘red sea’? Is it symbolic of the blood that has become part of the sea?
It is a Biblical allusion. In the Bible, it is the Red Sea, but I gave it the meaning of Dead Sea or Sava kadal, the sea that kills people. It is like Moses helping his people cross the sea. Here, the Tamil fishermen cross the sea to India hoping for a better life but the situation is worse here.
There is a dialogue in the film that the refugee camps are no better than an Army camp. The camps smell of dead bodies and there are crows, vultures, and dogs vying for the dead bodies. Death is in the air.
There is also the possibility of interpreting it as the sea filled with the blood of fishermen.
You had a lot of problems with the Censor Board.
I had problems with the producers too. Film director Samuthirakani was the producer initially. But he withdrew after six days of shooting as there was a conflict between independent film-making and people from the industry.
But I could not stop shooting. So, I begged all the people I knew, my friends and relatives, to contribute. After 11 days of shooting, there was no money and we stopped shooting and came back to Chennai.
I showed whatever we had shot to many people, including Janaki Sivakumar, wife of the chief engineer at A R Rahman’s studio. She helped me by collecting money and becoming the producer. I did the rest of the shooting with her support.
It took me another seven to eight months to complete the post-production work. It was only ready in January 2011.
When I took the first copy to the Censor Board they said the film was not qualified to be exhibited in public for three reasons: it makes denigrating statements about the Indian government, about the functioning of the Sri Lankan government, and the dialect of the fishermen is unparliamentary.
I went to the Appellate Tribunal. They asked the Central Board of Film Certification to re-examine the film. Leela Samson became the head of CBFC by then and the film was given a certificate without any cuts but with an A certificate. I had to negotiate the corridors of power single-handed.

Image: A scene from Sengadal

 
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After that, Sengadal went to quite a few international film festivals and won awards too…
It was premiered in the official competition at the 32nd Durban International Film Festival. Then, it was the official selection for the First Film Competition at the 35th World Montreal Film Festival. It won the NWAFF Award at the Tokyo International Women’s Film Festival.
In the International Competition at the Mumbai Film Fest, MAMI, Sengadal was the only Indian film. At the International Fishermen’s film festival in France, it was the opening film. They have subtitled it in French.
What was your feeling when it was selected as the only Tamil film in the Indian Panorama at the IFFI, Goa?
It was a pleasant surprise, because it is a political film and is very critical of the Indian government. And the Indian government choosing it as the best Tamil film gives you hope that there is democracy in this country. It gives you a huge hope that the lives of fishermen, treated as of no value, is after all important.

Image: A scene from Sengadal

 
 
How was the response in Goa?
Tremendous. More than that, this film has given me space to talk about the issue. Fishermen on all the borders in the world face the same plight.
How did the Tamil film industry react to your film?
This is how they reacted: at the Chennai Film Festival, all the films shown in the Indian Panorama at Goa were shown, except Sengadal. They were scared because it talks politics directly. There was censorship at the festival, which angered me.
Film festivals generally show provocative films. It’s a place where you can breathe freedom. So, on the opening day, I protested. After the protest, it was shown.
When do you plan to release the film?
I plan to release it on the Internet where there are no powerbrokers like the distributors and theatre owners in between. I can then market it in the social media.

Image: A scene from Sengadal

திரைப்பட விழாக்களிலும் தணிக்கையை நுழைக்காதே!

முற்று முழுவதுமாக திரைப்பட ஊடகம் வணிகமயமாக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் சூழலில் வணிகம் சாராத மாற்றுச் சினிமாக்களும் வணிக நிறுவனங்கள் சாராத சுயாதீனமான (Independant) திரைப்படக் கலைஞர்களுக்கும் களம் அமைத்துத் தரும் வெளியாகவும் இத்தகைய மாற்றுச் சினிமாக்களை சினிமா பார்வையாளர்களிடம் எடுத்துச் செல்லும் பாலமாகவும் திரைப்பட விழாக்களே இருக்கின்றன. திரையரங்குகளும் வெளியீட்டாளர்களும் கிட்டாத திரைக்கலைஞர்கள் உலகம் முழுவதும் இவ்வாறான திரைப்பட விழாக்களை நம்பியே இயங்கிக் கொண்டிருக்கிறார்கள்.

குறிப்பான நமது தமிழ்ச் சூழலில் மாற்றுச் சினிமாவுக்கான அத்தனை பாதைகளும் மூடப்பட்டே கிடக்கின்றன. அரசோ அல்லது வேறு நிறுவனங்களோ மாற்றுச் சினிமாக்களையும் அரசியல் சினிமாக்களையும் விலக்கியே வைத்திருக்கிறார்கள். முடிந்த போதெல்லாம் இவ்வாறான மாற்றுத் திரைப்பட முயற்சிகளை அவர்கள் பல்வேறு வழிகளிலும் முடக்கவே முயல்கிறார்கள். இந்த அவலமான சூழலுக்குள் இருந்துதான் செங்கடல் திரைப்படம் பல்வேறு நெருக்கடிகளையும் எதிர்கொண்டு உருவாக்கப்பட்டது. செங்கடல் மிக நேரடியாகவே இலங்கைக் கடற்படையால் கொல்லப்பட்ட தமிழக மீனவர்களைக் குறித்தும் தமிழகத்திலிருக்கும் ஈழத்து அகதிகள் குறித்தும் பேசுகிறது. இப்படத்தில் மீனவர்களும் அகதிகளுமே நடித்திருக்கிறார்கள். படத்தின் தயாரிப்பு வேலைகளிலும் அவர்கள் உணர்வுபூர்வமாக பங்கெடுத்துக் கொண்டார்கள். அந்த வகையில் செங்கடல் மக்கள் பங்கேற்புச் சினிமா.
செங்கடல் திரைப்படம் இந்திய இலங்கை அரசுகளை நேரடியாக விமர்சிப்பதாக காரணம் சொல்லப்பட்டு மாநிலத் தணிக்கைக் குழுவால் முடக்கப்பட்டது. ஒரு வருடம் முழுவதும் நீண்ட சட்டப் போராட்த்திற்கு பின்பாக செங்கடலுக்கு தணிக்கைச் சான்றிதழ் அளிக்கப்பட்டது. டர்பன், மொன்றியல், டோக்கியோ, மும்பை, இந்தியன் பனோரமா (கோவா), திருவனந்தபுரம் உள்ளிட்ட பல்வேறு திரைப்பட விழாக்களில் செங்கடல் திரையிடப்பட்டிருக்கிறது. அது NAWFF விருது, GFI Grant ஆகிய விருதுகளைப் பெற்றிருக்கிறது.
இந்தியன் பனோரமாவில் திரையிடப்பட்ட படங்கள் சென்னைத் திரைப்பட விழாவில் பனோரமா பிரிவில் திரையிடப்படும் போது, இந்தியன் பனோரமாவிற்கு இவ்வருடம் தேர்வான ஒரே தமிழ்ப் படமான செங்கடல் ஏன் இந்தத் திரைப்பட விழாவில் நிராகரிக்கப்படுகிறது. இதன் பின்னாலுள்ள அரசியல் (சினிமா) என்ன?
சென்னைத் திரைப்பட விழா ஏற்பாட்டாளர்கள் திரைப்பட விழாவில் தணிக்கையைப் புகுத்துவதையும் அவர்களுக்கு உவப்பான அரசியலைப் பேசாத காரணத்தால் இவ்வாறு திரைப்பட தேர்வுகளில் குளறுபடிகளைச் செய்து, திரைப்பட விழாக்களின் சுதந்திரச் சிந்தனை மரபை அழிக்கும் சீரழிவுச் செயலை நிறுத்திக் கொள்ள வேண்டுமென நாங்கள் அறத்தின் பெயராலும் சுதந்திரக் கலையின் பெயராலும் கேட்டுக் கொள்கிறோம்.

 

இயக்குநர் B..லெனின்
இயக்குநர் அருண்மொழி
இயக்குநர் அம்ஷன்குமார்
வெளி ரங்கராஜன்
இயக்குநர் மாமல்லன் கார்த்திக்
இயக்குநர் லீனா மணிமேகலை
தொடர்புக்கு :
பேச : 8939057678
மின்னஞ்சல் : leenamanimekalai@gmail.com

An Urgent Appeal from the Secretary, International Federation of Film Societies

The Minister-in Charge
Information and Broadcasting
Government of India
New Delhi

Dear Sir,

I would like to draw your kind attention to the following fact.

Sengadal the Dead Sea, a factual feature fiction directed by Leena Manimekalai, captures the fragments of ordinary lives battered by three-decade-long ethnic war in Sri Lanka. It unfolds in a fisher village at Dhanushkodi, the southernmost tip of India and talks of the travails of the fishermen risking their lives everyday in the border waters between Sri Lanka and India. Dhanushkodi fishermen community, refugees and the common public of Rameswaram have acted in the the film speaking their own dialect and it is a peoples film made by the people themselves using the film unit as facilitators.

The Censor Board refused the clearance certificate to the film and cited its reasons as the film has denigrating political references to the Government of India and Sri Lanka, as well as uses unparliamentary words.

This country guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, and that right stands violated if such true depiction is not allowed.The Supreme Court of India has repeatedly upheld this right as a cherished and zealously guarded right of the citizens of India, including in the context of film-making and exhibition and other forms of artistic expression.

The intention of the film is to depict the rage of the affected Indian fisherfolk at the human rights violations directed against them by the Government, mainly by the Sri Lankan Government. An attempt to tone down that anger would do gross injustice to the truth of their harsh lives being portrayed. It would result in a distortion of factual reality.When the CBFC bans Sengadal the Dead Sea from public exhibition for such flimsy reasons, it is freedom of expression and right to information which are at stake. In fact, the anger of those affected by terrible human rights violations inflicted upon them by the State (whether Indian or Sri Lankan), should be allowed to be expressed freely and even encouraged by allowing the film to be screened.

The film honestly shows how torturous life had become for the fishermen owing to the ethnic war in Sri Lanka and inaction of Indian Government on Srilankan Navy Excess and this reality is shown without any compromise.The issue is extremely important and has generated a raging international and national debate. Specially so, after several such incidents have come to light in the media even after the end of ethnic war. To hide behind reasons such as straining of friendly relations with countries or defamation to hide the truth is far from the objectives of film certification.The question of defamation can arise only when allegations are devoid of truth; but truth itself is a defense in defamation,and depicting the truth cannot be deemed to be defamatory.

On the use of unparliamentary words, the depiction of some words / expletives frequently used to express anger, sorrow, disgust, etc. that merely portray day to day life, may not be prohibited on grounds such as obscenity, etc.They must be allowed in the realm of freedom of artistic expression.If the idea is to communicate certain social and political atrocities, and the sheer helpless rage of the victim, they should not be hidden and should be fully expressed to convey the theme.

The Sengadal team has appealed to the Appellate Tribunal to lift the ban. 

We , the film fraternity, intellectuals, human rights activists and the general public, have signed this petition that demands that the film be granted a CBFC Clearance for public exhibition without any cuts.

Sincerely Yours,

Premendra Mazumder
Vice President, Federation of Film Societies of India
Secretary-Asia, International Federation of Film Societies
India-Correspondent, Cannes Critics Week

Petition to lift the ban for the film Sengadal the DeadSea

To
The Secretary
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
New Delhi
Sengadal the Dead Sea, a factual feature fiction directed by Leena Manimekalai, captures the fragments of ordinary lives battered by three-decade-long ethnic war in Sri Lanka.It unfolds in a fisher village at Dhanushkodi, the southernmost tip of India and talks of the travails of the fishermen risking their lives everyday in the border waters between Sri Lanka and India. Dhanushkodi fishermen community, refugees and the common public of Rameswaram have acted in the the film speaking their own dialect and it is a peoples film made by the people themselves using the film unit as facilitators.
The Censor Board refused the clearance certificate to the film and cited its reasons as the film has denigrating political references to the Government of India and Sri Lanka, as well as uses unparliamentary words.
This country guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India (COI),and that right stands violated if such true depiction is not allowed.The Supreme Court of India has repeatedly upheld this right as a cherished and zealously guarded right of the citizens of India, including in the context of film-making and exhibition and other forms of artistic expression.
The intention of the film is to depict the rage of the affected Indian fisherfolk at the human rights violations directed against them by the Government, mainly by the Sri Lankan Government. An attempt to tone down that anger would do gross injustice to the truth of their harsh lives being portrayed. It would result in a distortion of factual reality.When the CBFC bans Sengadal the Dead Sea from public exhibition for such flimsy reasons, it is freedom of expression and right to information which are at stake. In fact, the anger of those affected by terrible human rights violations inflicted upon them by the State ( whether Indian or Sri Lankan), should be allowed to be expressed freely and even encouraged by allowing the film to be screened.
The film honestly shows how torturous life had become for the fishermen owing to the ethnic war in Sri Lanka and inaction of Indian Government on Srilankan Navy Excess and this reality is shown without any compromise.The issue is extremely important and has generated a raging international and national debate. Specially so, after several such incidents have come to light in the media even after the end of ethnic war. To hide behind reasons such as straining of friendly relations with countries or defamation to hide the truth is far from the objectives of film certification.The question of defamation can arise only when allegations are devoid of truth; but truth itself is a defense in defamation,and depicting the truth cannot be deemed to be defamatory.
On the use of unparliamentary words, the depiction of some words / expletives frequently used to express anger, sorrow, disgust, etc. that merely portray day to day life, may not be prohibited on grounds such as obscenity, etc.They must be allowed in the realm of freedom of artistic expression.If the idea is to communicate certain social and political atrocities, and the sheer helpless rage of the victim, they should not be hidden and should be fully expressed to convey the theme.
The Sengadal team has appealed to the Appellate Tribunal to lift the ban.
We , the film fraternity, intellectuals, human rights activists and the general public, have signed this petition that demands that the film be granted a CBFC Clearance for public exhibition without any cuts.
In Solidarity
pls sign the below petition

It is time we censored the Censor Board

 http://expressbuzz.com/opinion/op-ed/it-is-time-we-censored-the-censor-board/242944.html

Page 11 of Jan28,2011 Indian Express
Leena Manimekalai
First Published : 27 Jan 2011 12:30:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 28 Jan 2011 12:41:50 AM IST
On December 31, 2010, the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) watched and refused the clearance certificate to my film Sengadal for the following reasons. “This film contains many present political references in a denigrative way and usage of many unparliamentary words. There are some denigrating references of the functioning of the Sri Lankan Government. As the film violates guidelines, certificate to the film is refused.”
This experience has only taught me a lesson that it is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. When Article 19 of the Constitution says, all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, intimidation of CBFC, which is an ‘attached and subordinate’ organisation of the Ministry of I&B, with the free-to-use scissors on every other film made in this country is disastrous. Is it not evident that censorship has lost its relevance, when people have access to all kinds of visual entertainment over various media? Is it not dubious that CBFC plays the ‘moral police’ just for the films to be shown in theatres.
As a poet and a filmmaker I have been suffering hurdles in the way of free expression all through my profession by extra-constitutional pressure groups like political party goons, ultra left and ultra right ideological outfits, market, religious movements and even academic institutions. My documentary Parai on caste discrimination which runs to 40 minutes suffered 19 cuts by the CBFC in 2004 on the ground the film shall create law and order problems. I joined the Campaign against Censorship/Vikalp — forum of 250 independent filmmakers and detested the cuts and screened Parai at almost 200 villages by alternative means and the film ultimately called for government intervention in the locality addressed in the film by gearing up people’s movements. And now, Sengadal, which is a people participatory cinema has been refused permission for public exhibition.
Sengadal captures the fragments of ordinary lives beaten by three-decade-long ethnic war in Sri Lanka. It unfolds in a fisher village at Dhanushkodi, the southernmost tip of India and talks of the travails of the fishermen risking their lives everyday in the border waters between Sri Lanka and India. Kambippadu, a village in Dhanushkodi, that was washed out by floods caused by a cyclone in 1964 is now a village of ruins and this is the focal place where the fiction unwinds. This place, where simple traditional fishermen ply their trade, is where Tamil refugees land either in boats or as floating corpses. The fishermen of Kambippadu and the Tamil refugees from the Rameshwaram Mandapam refugee camp form the bulk of the artistes in Sengadal.
It was a difficult mission to make a film because Dhanushkodi is a place under constant surveillance by the Coast Guard, the Indian Navy, CB-CID, Q Branch and the Intelligence Bureau as the Sri Lanka is 18 kms away. We overcame all these barriers, natural and man-made, to see Sengadal honestly becomes a portrayal of the unrecognised community, constantly insecure.
What the world knows is that the war for a separate Tamil Eelam was merely bloodshed, violence and terror. But little is known about the struggle of the poor common folk and of the innocent fishermen caught in an internecine war. They are forced to flee a war-ravaged land, battle the sea, and reach India only to confront increasing hostility and an uncertain future.
The lives of the fishermen on mainland India are no different. We learn it from our everyday headlines. They are often mistaken for rebels, spies and smugglers and are beaten, maimed or killed by the Sri Lankan Navy.
I felt that I should not be a silent witness to this discrimination and human rights violation against a vulnerable society. I wanted to register my dissent and share their true story through cinema. When the CBFC stops me from exhibiting my film to the people, it is freedom of expression and right to information which is at stake.
If the government thinks that its citizens are capable of watching thousand and odd advertisements bulldozing the drawing halls of their homes broadcast in hundreds of channels and select which shampoo will bring more lather, if it feels that its citizens can see through headlines and breaking news manufactured by the political mafia-run channels and get their daily dose of ‘truth’ and considers that its citizens are entitled to watch any soap or any television show, can hear any radio programme and browse anything on Internet and remain wise, how come it decides that the moment its citizens buy a cinema ticket they become idiots?
To be eligible for participation in film festivals in India, Indian films need a CBFC certificate while foreign films get away with censorship exemption. The broadcasting ministry has to agree to ‘censorship exemption’ for foreign films. Otherwise, there won’t be foreign films available for exhibition in Indian festivals. But it cannot risk ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘critical’ films being shown at festivals organised by the government. This is stupidity and duplicity at its height.
However much the Indian state machinery wants us to believe that the CBFC carries out certification, in truth it still indulges in censorship in the classical sense. Many independent filmmakers feel that the main censorship law — the Cinematographic Act of 1952 — is archaic and needs a thorough review, especially in the light of rapid changes in the last decade. It is baffling that the political mafia can run their propaganda channels telecasting their rallies and inflammatory footage for hours uncensored but when a filmmaker uses bits and parts of it to show the real side, he/she is denied a screening certificate.
I feel that the censor board should be abolished altogether. What we need is a rating agency, classifying films as being suitable for universal viewing or under parental guidance or only for adults.
                                                                leenamanimekalai@gmail.com
 

 

Film on Lankan conflict rejected

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/chennai/film-lankan-conflict-rejected-301

January 25th, 2011

 
 Jan 24: The Regional Censor Board has denied clearance to Sengadal, a film on plight of the fishermen living in the Dhanushkodi coast of India during the last stages of the ethnic war between the Tamil Eelam rebels and the Sri Lankan Government.

The maiden feature film of the award winning writer/poet Leena Manimekalai and also focuses on the sufferings of Ealam Tamils between February and May 2009, the last stages of the civil war. It is said the censors were reportedly ‘startled’ by the film and felt that it was unfit for viewing.
The film contains many pungent political references and suggests that the Indian government assisted in the ethnic-cleansing of the Tamils and the LTTE. The censors also found the language unpalatable. Ms Leena, who also doubles as the lead protagonist in the film, said, “I have only registered the facts of the ordinary lives (fishermen) caught in the atrocious war and the political apathy. All those who have appeared are real and so are the narratives. This being the case, why should I scissor the dialogues and scenes?”


The filmmaker said the censor board’s refusal was a gross violation of the freedom of artistic expression and said that many Tamil films used the same style of language which the censors found offensive.

“The censor board is being unfair,” said Ms Leena, who, along with her producer Janaki Siva has sent Sengadal to the appellate tribunal in Delhi.