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Film’s labour pangs

- Row over birth scene in malayalam movie
Sweta Menon

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 27: The baby has been delivered, but those who filmed its birth have gone into “labour”.

Two months after model-turned-actress Shweta Menon gave birth to a girl in the presence of live cameras that recorded the act for a Malayalam movie, the makers of the film are still labouring to deliver their “work of art”.

Several politicians and women’s groups have slammed the use of such footage as commercialisation of a “woman’s private affair”.

Kerala Assembly Speaker G. Karthikeyan was the first to speak his mind while addressing a seminar on the ethics of newsgathering. “Delivering a child is the most private and sacred moment of a woman’s life and recording and using it for a feature film is commercial exploitation,” he told the seminar, organised by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists in Kottayam district.

“The concept that anything is saleable is western. Society should decide whether the film will be screened or not,” he said, criticising both Menon and the film’s director, Blessy.

Blessy, a national award-winning director, who had shot a movie in Calcutta called Calcutta News, refused to be drawn into the controversy, saying his film, Kalimannu, which explores the relationship between a mother and her unborn baby, would “speak for itself”.

Menon, a former Miss India runner-up who delivered the girl child at Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital on September 27, could not be reached.

Karthikeyan said he was “too much disturbed” when he came to know that a childbirth had been shown in the film. “I was waiting for the right platform to air my protest.”

The Speaker’s criticism evoked mixed reactions. Sebastian Paul, a Left-backed former Independent Rajya Sabha MP, said even an unborn child was entitled to human rights. “Arguments that it was done with the consent of the mother would make no difference to this.”

CPM Rajya Sabha MP T.N. Seema disagreed. “Giving birth is a biological process and there are different aspects to it. I don’t think there is anything immoral or indecent in trying to portray it in a positive way. It is also a question of Shweta’s personal freedom,” Seema said.

Minister for cinema K.B. Ganesh Kumar, himself an actor, concurred, saying it was a matter of personal and creative freedom.

But the BJP’s women’s wing slammed both Blessy and Menon. “We have asked the government not to allow the film to be screened,” Mahila Morcha chief Sobha Surendran said.

The Kerala Film Exhibitor’s Federation said theatres under it would not show the film if the director includes the delivery scene. “We will definitely boycott it,” federation president Liberty Basheer said.

The Film Employees’ Federation backed Blessy. “The controversy is baseless… we don’t know how he has visualised it (the scene),” said general secretary B. Unnikrishnan. The state women’s commission played safe. “How can I say anything without seeing the film,” panel chairperson K.C. Rosakutty said.

All eyes are now on the censor board, where the film is due to be submitted for certification.