A feature film about the plight of India’s dalits, or ‘untouchable’ caste, has been banned by the country’s Central Board of Film Certification for portraying the country’s independence campaigner Mahatma Ghandi in a bad light, including calling him gay.
The film board declared that the film Papilio Buddha could not be certified even with major cuts.
The board found that the film contained ‘visuals and dialogues denigrating Mahatma Gandhi, such as garlanding the effigy of Gandhiji with [shoes] and then burning the effigy, referring to Gandhiji as a person with homosexual inclination, [and as] cheating [low caste people].’
The board also complained about the use of offensive language in the film and its depiction of police brutality against dalits and violence against women, including a gang rape.
However the film’s director, Jayan Cheriyan, told the Deccan Chronicle that the film was a ‘pro-dalit movie inspired by real life events and characters’ depicting their actual struggles.
‘It is a film on the Ambedkarist politics and on the debate of ‘Gandhi vs Ambedkar’, Cheriyan told the Herald.
B. R. Ambedkar was an Indian dalit rights campaigner who rose to become the Chairman of the Drafting Committee for the Indian Constitution and encouraged dalits to convert from Hinduism to Buddhism – a religion without a caste system.
Ambedkar clashed with Gandhi who wanted dalits to remain Hindus while removing the caste system, while Ambedkar criticized the pace of change regarding dalit rights under Gandhi’s leadership of the Indian National Congress Party.
The burning of Gandhi in effigy takes place in the context of a political protest depicted in the film.