CHENNAI: The trailer of filmmaker Venkatesh Kumar’s Neelam, which is about the Sri Lankan civil war, has been refused certification, following the censor board deeming that the film could likely affect the India-Sri Lanka relationship.
The film had previously run into trouble in 2013, when filmmaking had to be stopped after threats were issued to the makers. “The producers (Renuka and Kishore) were not supportive. And so, I made another feature film, Lightman, and now, I’ve reshot all the old portions painstakingly. To be told now that the trailer that runs for about four minutes and 30 seconds is considered a threat to the India-Sri Lanka relationship is really the last straw,” he says.
Neelam traces the life of LTTE and Sri Lankans, and revolves around a series of incidents between the 1960s and 2000. “I have shown the beginnings of Velupillai Prabhakaran, and how he rose as a leader. Initially, I never thought I’d face any trouble. I am not justifying whatever Prabhakaran did. My film’s an honest account of how the genocide happened,” he says.
Venkatesh, a disciple of the late Balu Mahendra, says even the veteran director wanted to make a film on this subject. “Balu Mahendra always wanted to direct a film based on Tamil Eelam. The Sri Lankan government sees Prabhakaran as a terrorist, but we (Tamilians) see him as a hero.” He believes Neelam to be an ambitious film. “It’s unfortunate that we have a government that tries to curb everything an artiste does. Filmmaking is no more a creative expression.
This is a democratic country, but we can’t create art as we deem fit. Do you know that the CBFC members actually loved the film, but they still are not in a position to certify it?” he asks. Venkatesh has appealed to the Mumbai head office now. “If I don’t get a positive response, I have to deal with this in court. I was even ready to chop scenes or mute words. I haven’t made a porn film. Even those films are getting released without trouble these days,” he says.
Other recent films that have been rejected by the CBFC include Muttrupulliyaa and Porkalathil Oru Poo, which is about the life of Isai Priya, a Sri Lanka-based Tamil journalist, who was killed in the civil war. It is to be noted that Santhosh Sivan’s Inam, which explores the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils following the defeat of LTTE, was pulled from theatres following protests by pro-Eelam groups.