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Documentary on demonetisation not screened in Delhi club

Sangh parivar activists threaten film screening as it shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi 'in bad light'

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 25.09.19, 4:10 AM
  • Updated 25.09.19, 4:10 AM
  • 2 mins read
The poster of the documentary (Picture sourced by correspondent)

The screening of an award-winning Malayalam documentary on a tea seller hit by demonetisation was cancelled at Kerala Club in New Delhi on Monday allegedly because of threats from Sangh parivar activists.

The documentary — Oru Chaayakadakarante Mann ki Baat, titled in English as Mind Matter of a Tea Vendor — is based on the life of an eccentric tea seller in Kollam whose savings were wiped out during demonetisation.

An organiser of the event said members of Kerala Club, a private organisation of Malayalis, had said they had been warned against hosting the film as it showed Prime Minister Narendra Modi “in bad light”.

Modi, the architect of the demonetisation in 2016, often refers to his experience as a tea seller in his childhood. Other than these, the film has another allusion to Modi in Mann ki Baat, the title of the Prime Minister’s radio show.

A member of Kerala Club said the screening was cancelled as they had faced the wrath of the Sangh parivar before.

The film, which released last year, had run into opposition from BJP supporters in Kochi in 2018 but had never been stalled so far. The screening, the first in Delhi, finally took place on Tuesday night at the office of the Delhi Union of Journalists.

P.S. Ramdas, the national coordinator of the Clone Cinema Alternative organisation that had planned the screening, told The Telegraph: “By yesterday morning itself, Kerala Club members had told us that they were getting threats and they wouldn’t be able to host the screening. They did not specify who exactly called them up, but told us that they were warned not to allow us as the film showed PM Modi in bad light. Although the film was not screened, a discussion on the economic crisis with (academic and senior journalist) Sukumar Muralidharan was allowed.”

Kerala Club managing committee member A.J. Philip, a former editor of The Tribune newspaper who was present at the discussion, recalled how the club had been vandalised by suspected Sangh parivar activists in the aftermath of the Sabarimala crisis.

“A few months ago, when renowned film director T.R. Priyanandan visited Kerala Club, Sangh parivar activists entered the complex and vandalised a cartoon exhibition that was in progress, to protest against his Facebook comment on Lord Ayyappa, which he had deleted and apologised for,” Philip said.

“The club has no political leanings and we have hosted BJP, Congress and CPM leaders here for discussions. But members had got calls from Sangh parivar people and we decided to call off the screening as we were hiring the projector from outside and we would not be able to prevent someone from damaging it if there was a disruption,” he added.

The half-hour film on 75-year-old tea seller Yahiya, who works wearing a nightie and shaves half his moustache in protest against police brutality and demonetisation, respectively, won the best short documentary award at the 11th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala in June. Director Sanu Kummil, a journalist with the Madhyamam daily, had screened the film in Calcutta earlier this year.

The story is a dark comedy about Yahiya who buries his savings under the ground after being robbed. After demonetisation, he faints while standing in a queue to exchange his demonetised cash savings of Rs 23,000. He finally burns the money.