A day ahead of the scheduled release of Prithviraj-starrer Malayalam movie 'Kaduva', the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has demanded that the name of the protagonist character be modified after it was found relatable to a real person. The CBFC has also directed the insertion of a strong disclaimer at the beginning of the movie to mitigate defamation.
This comes a week after the Kerala High Court directed the CBFC to take an independent decision on the objection filed before it which challenged the theatre release of the movie.
The CBFC found that the scenes objected to by the applicant would only be relatable to him if the central character is named Kuruvachan.
"With the central character's name in the film changed, none of the scenes are attributable to the complainant or his family and the element of defamation would not lie."
As such, the movie was permitted for public exhibition with the following modifications:
1) Substituting the name of the character Kuruvachan with another suitable name
2) Disclaimer shown in the film is to be exhibited for a minimum of 20 seconds, ie, 10 seconds each in Malayalam as well as in English.
In the plea filed before the High Court, it was alleged that the protagonist in the movie is a portrayal of the petitioner and that the story itself was an adaptation of his life.
According to him, the movie contains embellishments and additions to real-life incidents, some of which are per se defamatory to him and his family members. The petitioner had thereby filed a civil suit against the movie and had obtained an interim order of injunction against its release. But the injunction application was later dismissed and an appeal against this order met with the same fate.
Upon coming to know that the movie has been presented for examination and certification under the Cinematograph Act, the petitioner had submitted an objection against the grant of certification to the movie under Section 5A.
The Court had accordingly directed the CBFC to make a decision on the objection after hearing the parties on July 4. Irrespective of the decision on the objection, the application for certification of the film was directed to be considered and an appropriate decision be taken in accordance with the procedure prescribed under the Act and Rules.
The CBFC opined that as per the Cinematograph Act and Rules, it has to ensure that there is no content in the movie that is defamatory to an individual or a body of individuals. Similarly, Guideline No. 2 (xviii) enjoins the Board to ensure that visuals or words involving defamation of an individual or a body of individuals or contempt of court are not presented.
The order was issued after examining the movie and verifying its scripts, documents and the different judicial decisions on the matter. It was thereby found that there was a substantial force in the contention of the complainant that the name of the title character could be relatable to him.
"The observation of the Civil Court that there is merit in the contention that the character Kaduvakkunnel Kuruvachan in the screenplay is none other than the plaintiff also fortifies the fact," reads the order.
It was found that the scenes objected to by the applicant would only be relatable to him if the central character is named Kuruvachan.
The CBFC added that it is seen that time and again, courts have held that an artist has his own freedom to express himself in a manner which is not prohibited in law and such prohibitions are not read by implication to crucify the rights of the expressive mind. If there has to be any limitation, that has to be per the prescription in law, it was observed.
Hence, after detailed deliberations, it was unanimously decided by the examining committee that if the name Kuruvachacn is substituted and a strong disclaimer is exhibited, the defamation as alleged by the complainant would be mitigated.
The CBFC clarified that the scenes which do not refer to the name Kuruvachan cannot be related to the complainant and that it has to be treated as a work of fiction.
The order was passed after hearing the applicant Jose Kuruvinakunnel and his Advocate Roshan D. Alexander, as well as Jinu Varghese Abraham, Listin Stephen and Shaji Kailas.
Last year, producer Anurag Augustus had moved the High Court seeking to cancel screenwriter Jinu V Abraham's copyright over the script for the movie.