India should scrap film censorship: ‘Dheepan’ actor

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Actor Anthonythasan Jesuthasan of Palme d’Or-winning drama “Dheepan” — a French drama about three Tamil refugees who flee the civil war in Sri Lanka to settle in France — feels the film may not release in India. He also says it’s time India gets rid of its film censorship.

“I’m not against censorship, but when it’s still bound by the rules created during British regime, it worries me. It’s unlikely that ‘Dheepan’ will release in India thanks to the censors. I think India should just do away with (film) censorship,” Anthonythasan told IANS on the sidelines of the ongoing 17th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.

Anthonythasan believes censorship can’t be used to judge any form of art.

“It’s not just cinema. I’m a writer too, and some of my novels have been banned from being released in the country. My film ‘Dead Sea’, which I had written and directed in 2009, was denied censor certification because it was about Tamil fishermen being killed on Sri Lankan waters,” he said.

In Jacques Audiard-directed “Dheepan” — which won the most prestigious award of the Cannes International Film Festival earlier this year — Anthonythasan plays Sivadhasan, a former Tamil LTTE member who assumes the name Dheepan and forms a family with two strangers so that they can flee Sri Lanka and gain asylum in France.

The reel story is very similar to Antonythasan’s real life.

“I worked as an LTTE soldier and then came to France, where I’ve been living as a refugee for over two decades,” he said.

The only thing that has changed in his life after starring in the movie is that people recognize him now wherever he goes.

“I’m no longer a refugee. I get to travel business class now and no more ticketless ride on the subway. People listen to me when I talk and I make the best use of the opportunity. I try and speak about the problems faced by Sri Lankan immigrants all over the world,” he said.

Anthonythasan views cinema as a powerful medium to address the most burning issues plaguing humanity.

“I don’t want only the Sri Lankan issues to be highlighted but wish filmmakers use the medium to throw light on several problems from around the globe,” he added.

He admits such films will receive strong objection.

“People hold on to certain beliefs and when you go against them and try to make a point, there will be resistance. It will come via public and even government. But these things shouldn’t stop a filmmaker from making a point, even if it means going against the whole system,” he said.

Anthonythasan will soon work in a Canadian film about the large population of Tamils settled there.

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