Award wining film raises political row over Karunakaran

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 25 (IANS) The controversy over an award-winning Malayalam movie, which has an indirect reference to late Congress leader K.Karunakaran, Monday turned into a slanging match between the ruling UDF and the CPI-M after the state culture minister criticised the film.

Culture Minister K.C. Joseph said that creative freedom is not a license to defame anyone.

"I am yet to see that film... From what I read in newspaper reports, it seems that there is a veiled attempt to defame Karunakaran, which is certainly not acceptable," Joseph told reporters here.

Angry Congressmen burnt film director Kamal's effigy in front of the theatre where his film "Ceeluloid" is being screened.

Taking exception to Joseph's remarks, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) stalwart and former chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan said it was most unfortunate that a film that won accolades is being targeted by a section of the Congress and the culture minister.

"A film has to be seen as a film and at the same time if anything wrong is there in the film, it should be pointed out. Also in numerous films and literary pieces, lots of things against me have been said and written, but I have not reacted because I have left that to the people to decide," said Achuthanandan in a statement here.

"Celluloid", which won seven state awards this year including for the best film and best actor, is a period film about the "Father of Malayalam Cinema" J.C. Daniel, who produced, directed, wrote, photographed, edited and acted in the first film made in Kerala, "Vigathakumaran" (The Lost Child), in 1928.

"Celluloid" makes an indirect reference to Karunakaran, three-time chief minister of the state who died aged 92 in December 2010. It refers to him and then bureaucrat Malayatoor Ramakrishnan as having treated Daniel with contempt in the mid-1970s.

Less than 24 hours after "Celluloid" was adjudged the best film at the state film awards announced Friday, Karunakaran's son K. Muraleedharan hit out at its director Kamal, terming it unfortunate that he has dragged Karunakaran's name into it for the sake of cheap publicity.

Meanwhile, the directors union of the Malayalam film industry rallied behind Kamal and expressed its complete support to him.

"It's most unfortunate that Kamal has been targeted for no reason. I was a jury member and I saw the film and I can say that there is no mention of Karunakaran at all. The need of the hour is that those who criticise should first see the film and then air opinions," said director Sibi Malayil.

The Kerala government, in 1992, honoured Daniel by instituting the J.C. Daniel Award as part of the Kerala State Film Awards to honour lifetime achievement in Malayalam cinema.

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