Film “threatened the integrity of the country”, Information Ministry officials had said while blocking its screening in Kerala last year.
On January 29, a 16-minute documentary was scheduled to screen at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF). Made by Shawn Sebastian and Fazil N.C., ‘In the Shade of fallen Chinar’ which looks at alternate forms of protest, taken up by youth in Kashmir, had been selected in the National Competition category of the festival.
That information was on the festival’s website, newsletters, and catalogue; a sizeable audience had come for the screening.
But the film didn’t start on time. The reason first given for the delay was “technical problem”, but when pressed further, the MIFF officials said that the documentary didn’t get censor exemption from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B).
One of its guidelines states, “In exceptional cases, the Ministry of I&B will have the powers to reject, for reasons to be recorded in writing, the request for exemption to any film(s) if, in its opinion, it would impinge on the security or integrity of the country or affect law and order or affect relations with other countries.” But the filmmakers got no written response.
This is not the first time the film was censored. In June, 2017, the film was blocked at a film festival in Kerala.
The film was barred from being screened in the competition and focus sections of the Xth International Documentary short film festival of Kerela, by the union information and broadcasting ministry.
Four documentary films – including two on Kashmir, one on the suicide of Hyderabad scholar Rohith Vemula and another on Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University did not receive a nod to get screened from the union Information and Broadcasting ministry. The ministry had justified the action by saying that “all of them are about student protests, against government high-handedness, insensitivity and censorship”.
The short film, in the shade of Fallen Chinar, put across those factors that inspired the art and form of resistance in the conflict-ridden valley.
The plot of the film revolves around the young group of artists, who are a part of the conflict, studying in the University of Kashmir.
While talking to Free Press Kashmir, director ‘In the shade of fallen chinar’ Fazil had said, “I’m happy that they(I&B) have banned the screening of this documentary film, as it gave the film more voice, more power, more discussion among masses.”