National Film Award winning director Ravi Jadhav has reacted with sadness to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s decision to drop his latest Marathi movie Nude from the Indian Panorama section at the upcoming International Film Festival of India. Referring to a Mumbai Mirror report, which detailed how Nude and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s S Durga had been dropped from the final list of selected films by Smriti Irani’s ministry without informing the selection committee, Jadhav said, “I didn’t know until I read the story. I am really disappointed, and I am 100% sure that they [the ministry officials] have not seen the film and have merely gone by its title. We have handled the subject aesthetically and sensitively.”

The annual film festival, which will be held in Panaji from November 20-28, was taken over by the National Film Development Corporation this year from the Directorate of Film Festivals and the Entertainment Society of Goa. Former Doordarshan news reader and Indian Institute of Mass Communication director Sunit Tandon is the festival’s director. The opening film is Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds, set in Mumbai and starring Ishaan Khatter and Malavika Mohanan.

Nude is drawn from Jadhav’s experiences as a student at Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai, and is the story of a poor woman who works as a model for art students without telling her family. The nudity has been aesthetically presented, Jadhav said, and there is nothing that can be deemed offensive or titillating.

Nude and S Durga were among 26 titles selected by the IFFI committee for the Indian Panorama section. The ministry’s decision to overrule the choices of the 13-member committee contravenes Clause 8.5 of the Indian Panorama 2017 regulations, which states that “the decision of the juries shall be final and binding and no appeal or correspondence regarding their decision shall be entertained”, a source told Mumbai Mirror.

Nude charmed the committee, headed by Sujoy Ghosh, which recommended it as the opening film of the Indian Panorama, but the ministry opted instead for Vinod Kapri’s Pihu, based on the single character of a two-year-old girl who is left alone at home.

The main issue, the filmmaker said, isn’t that his film will not be shown at IFFI – it is about respecting the mandate given to the selection committee, which includes the filmmakers Ruchi Narain, Gopi Desai, Hari Vishwanath, Apurva Asrani, Gyan Correa and Nikkhil Advani. “When we send our films for a festival, we hope that the renowned experts in the committee will appreciate them,” Jadhav said. “Jury members spent a lot of time and effort on watching hundreds of films before making their selection. What should I do the next time – should I send my film directly to the ministry?”

Nude seems to have suffered the same fate as S Durga, whose original title, Sexy Durga, angered Hindu right-wingers and promoted the ministry into refusing permission for the road movie to be screened at the Mumbai Film Festival in October. All titles selected for film festivals in India have to be approved by the I&B ministry.

Sasidharan was allowed to show S Durga in Mumbai after he renamed it and obtained a certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification.

What else can a movie about nude models be called? “Just like medical students need bodies for post mortems, art students need nude models for studying painting,” Jadhav pointed out. “Nude models and nude paintings have existed since ages. This movie is about one such woman, who cannot tell her family what she is doing but needs to work to bring up her son. I have handled the subject responsibly. I am a father of two kids, and I want them to watch the film too. I also have great respect for these models.”

Balak-Palak (2013).

Jadhav’s filmography includes Natrang (2009), the National Film Award winning Balgandharva (2011), the acclaimed comedy Balak-Palak (2013), about sex education for children, and the blockbuster Timepass (2014). Jadhav pointed to Balak-Palak as an example of his ability to handle delicate subjects sensitively. “When I did Balak-Palak, the entire film did not have the word sex in it – and I got a U certificate,” he said.

Nude has been co-produced by Zee Studios and is aiming for a release early next year. The movie will be submitted for certification next week.