THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Regional Censor Board has refused to grant censor certificate for 21 Months of Hell, a 78-minute documentary that revisits the dark days of the Emergency in the state.
The certificate has been refused even after the filmmaker, Yadu Vijayakrishnan, agreed to cut out sections that the Board had said violated the Cinematograph Act. Also, the filmmaker was seeking an ‘A’ certificate since, as Vijayakrishnan put it, “a documentary about Emergency was inherently violent and I was not particularly keen that those below the age of 18 should watch it.”
The documentary will now be sent to a nine-member revising committee for review. According to Mr Vijayakrishnan, the Censor Board’s regional office cited four main reasons for the denial. One, Mahatma Gandhi was shown in an unflattering light. Two, the national flag was denigrated. Three, the documentary was not based on facts. Fourth, the film had too much violence. “I just cannot comprehend how the Board could say that the film had insulted Mahatma Gandhi,” Mr Vijayakrishnan said.
The documentary has a scene where a policeman shouts at a group of anti-Emergency protesters raising pro-Mahatma Gandhi slogans. “Instead of singing praises of the dead Gandhi, shout slogans for the living Gandhi you scoundrels,” he barks.
Vijayakrishnan said it was the policeman, and not Mahatma Gandhi, who was shown in bad light. He also wonders how the national flag could be desecrated when they are shown falling from the hands of protesters brutally beaten up by the police.
He also found the Board’s charge that the film was violent silly. “How can a film about the horrors of Emergency be not violent,” he asked. The most ridiculous charge, he said, was that there was no evidence to back his film.
“There is enough material documenting the excesses of the period, including the Shah Commission report,” Vijayakrishnan said. “Also, my film has the testimonies of Emergency’s living victims,” he added.
The filmmaker’s counter charge is that the regional board has members with strong affinity towards the Congress and CPI, the two parties that were in power in the state during Emergency. Regional office members were not available for comment.