How difficult is it to wrap one's mind around male nudity?
"According to Pahlaj Nihalani, it should not exist. It's funny how the patriarchal society reacts when the male body is the object of desire," says Jayan K Cherian, whose Malayalam film 'Ka Bodyscapes' was refused certification by Central Board of Film Certification earlier this week.
The reason given was that the film glorified “the subject of gay and homosexual relationship” and portrayed the Hindu religion in a derogatory manner by showing Hanuman “in poor light as gay”.
In a telephonic interview with ScoopWhoop News, Cherian talked about his long and tedious struggle to get his film released. "I sent the film for certification to the Thiruvananthapuram office for certification. It was then sent to a revising committee in Chennai," says Cherian.
Cherian then approached the Kochi High Court, where the judge asked the CBFC to certify the film in 30 days. However, the CBFC chose to ignore the judgment and filed an appeal, stating that the case should have been addressed by a bench with more than one judge. In December 2016, the two-judge bench dismissed that appeal and asked them to certify the film in 90 days.
Eventually, a second revising committee was formed which was headed by Pahlaj Nihalani. "He refused to certify the film," says Cherian. This was the official response that the filmmaker got.
Ka Bodyscapes, according to Cherian, is an expression of the complex sexual politics of the contemporary Malayali society.
"Kerala is going through an important phase today. The largely patriarchal society is seeing cracks in its very foundation. There have been several youth movements in the state which has shown that the young people of the state are not afraid of talking about their body, sex and gender identity," says Cherian.
When Cherian conceptualised the film in 2014, he interviewed scores of people about their sexual identity. "I wanted to understand how people negotiate with their sexual identity and gender identity. I wanted to understand about the clash between the two," says Cherian.
Ka Bodyscapes, which uses the relationship between a homosexual artist and a rural kabaddi player to address the complexities of queer relationships, has several sensual scenes between the lead actors.
"It's shocking how prudish the Certification Board is being about this. They also have issues with the scene where the woman is showing pleasuring herself. The message is loud and clear. Anything that is not in line with the patriarchal, hetero-normative scheme of things, is to be censured. As it was in the case of Lipstick Under My Burkha too. It's okay to show two men jerking off in a sex comedy, but it's not okay for a Muslim woman to pleasure herself," he says.
One of the scenes that CBFC has specifically objected to, involves the alleged depiction of lord Hanuman as a "gay character". "I don't know how they came to this conclusion. That painting in question, is the masterpiece created by my protagonist. It shows his lover. the kabaddi player, as a flying man because he is a disciple of Hanuman. The painting is not of Hanuman at all," he clarifies.
Cherian claims that his film has been shown to film festivals in India and abroad to "roaring success". "It was shown to a very receptive crowd at the Bengaluru Queer Film Festival recently. No one had any objections to any of the scenes there," says Cherian.
The "systematic targeting" of the right wing government is murdering creative expression in India, feels Cherian. "I don't feel safe in India as a creative person anymore. Artists are attacked, academics are hounded down, students are slapped with sedition charges.Where exactly are we heading?" he says.
Feature image source: ScoopWhoop