The Kerala board of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has denied certification to a Malayalam docufiction that is based on the 1975 Emergency. Director Yadu Vijayakrishnan’s ’21 Months of Hell’, which depicts the torture methods used during the Emergency, was allegedly rejected certification as it had many objectionable scenes that disrespect Indira Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi and the national flag.
Yadu spoke to ten victims of the Emergency from Kerala and the ways in which they were abused.
According to Yadu, the CBFC rejected his application without requesting cuts.
Talking to The News Minute about 21 Months of Hell, Yadu said that part of the reason for the rejection is the genre of his work, i.e. docufiction. "In historical documentaries, it is quite common to see re-enactments of historic scenes because they don't have footage of those scene. Since this happened at the time of Emergency, we didn't have a lot of footage from the time. So we recreated those scenes. But the CBFC does not have a category for docufiction. They have feature films, short films, documentaries and advertising. My film falls under the broader term of documentary.”
The director said that the CBFC had listed down their objections in the first week of December.
"There's a scene in which they say I disrespected Mahatma Gandhi. In that scene, agitators are shouting slogans such as 'Bolo Bharat Mata ki Jai' and 'Bolo Gandhiji ki Jai'. When the police arrive, one of the cops shouts at them to stop chanting for the dead Gandhi (Mahatma) and asked them to hail the living Gandhi, which was the then PM Indira Gandhi. I had got this information from a victim who was present at the spot when the incident took place and so we recreated the scene," Yadu said.
He also stated that there’s a scene involving the national flag which was also found objectionable.
"There's a scene where the agitators can be seen waving the national flag and when the cops beat them up, the flag falls on the ground. They are saying that it is disrespecting the flag," Yadu added.
Often, the CBFC asks a filmmaker to edit the scenes that they find problematic, Yadu, however, said that he wasn’t given any such option.
"I had applied for an A certificate since my film has violence. And I also told them I could remove the scenes they think are controversial. But they simply rejected my application," he said.
Yadu was also asked about the veracity of the torture methods depicted in his docufiction.
"I told them these are testimonies of real-life victims. And they said they want written proof, such as a government reports from that time. This is ridiculous because the press was also gagged then and the government will never file a report about the crimes it committed," he said.
Yadu reportedly wanted to depict 13 torture methods, but couldn’t as he faced budget strains.
"The victims, who were youngsters then, are now between the ages of 60 and 70. The torture they faced was terrible. One sustained a spinal cord injury, one had a kidney malfunction, one became blind and another lost his teeth and his jaw is displaced to the extent that he cannot use a prosthetic jaw either," Yadu said.