'Papilio Buddha', a Malayalam film on a group of displaced dalits in the Western Ghats, directed by Jayan Cherian, has been denied censor certification by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
The CBFC stated that the screening rights were denied as the film had visuals and dialogues denigrating Mahatma Gandhi apart from visuals of extreme violence and extreme torture of women by police.
“The Board has listed a number of reasons for denying the certification based on its archaic set of guidelines designed to give overwhelming dominance for the state,” said US-based Jayan Cherian, who has made several experimental films and short fictions including ‘Shape of the Shapeless’,’Love in the Time of Foreclosure’, ‘Hidden Things’, ‘Soul of Solomon’ and ‘Capturing the Signs of God’.
“Most of the objections are about denigrating Gandhi, Ayyankali, Buddha et al. The perceived denigration seems to be coming from the realistic treatment of the climax scene - dalits’ agitation and their confrontation with the police who use force to evict them,” said Jayan Cherian.
The Censor Board had also taken exception to the language used in the film.
‘Usage of extremely filthy language and expletives by numerous characters throughout the film, calling caste names such as ‘Pulaya’, ‘Pulakalli’ etc in a derogatory manner, dialogues denigrating communal sections of the society etc’ is what the Board noted.
“The typical and realistic Malayalam used by the filmmaker for the characters in this film may be different from the usual commercial film language but calling it filthy is very subjective. The atrocities the dalit activists Sankaran and Manju go through in this film are reflections of social injustices happening in our society without exaggeration,” explained Jayan.
The film, produced by Prakash Bare and Thampy Antony, is about the struggle against local powers and government told through the eyes of Sankaran, an educated youth.
Kallen Pokkuden, environmental activist from Northern Kerala famed for planting mangroves, had made his debut as an actor in the film.
The film brings into focus, an example of the epic land struggles, which was fought in various regions of the state and across India, and the oppression of indigenous people by the powerful political and social establishments.
It also maps environmental degradation and abuse of pristine mountain habitats by outside forces