Kerala High Court: Kerala HC rejects request to withdraw Malayalam horror film ‘Churuli’ from Sony LIV

The Kerala High Court on Thursday rejected a plea seeking the removal of the Malayalam mystery horror movie ‘Churuli’ from the OTT platform Sony LIV, saying the intent behind the filing of the petition was “merely to advertising”.

Judge PV Kunhikrishnan said that if the courts start interfering with the showing of films simply because some dialogue is obscene or uses foul language, “there will be no end”.

“A film is an exposition of a story by the filmmaker. He has the right to use his artistic freedom. There is no obligation to see this film by every citizen of this country.

“Furthermore, the film in question was uploaded to OTT platforms. On the OTT platform, viewing is limited to subscribers of the 2nd Defendant (Sony LIV). In such circumstances, this Court cannot order to the 2nd defendant to remove the film from the OTT platform,” the High Court said in the 77-page judgment dismissing the motion.

The court further stated that in this case, there were no proper pleadings, the remedies sought were vague, and even the relevant rules applicable to films on OTT platforms were not mentioned in Peggy’s petition. Fen, a lawyer.

“A reading of the motion in brief itself will show that the intention of the petitioner is merely publicity. By merely pointing out that the film contains foul or obscene language, this Court cannot order the film to be removed of the OTT platform. I have a strong doubt that the petitioner herself did not patiently watch the entire film before filing this brief petition,” Judge Kunhikrishnan said.

Referring to various Supreme Court rulings on what constitutes obscenity or vulgarity in film scenes or dialogue, the High Court said the Supreme Court held that a film should be assessed in its entirety before reaching a conclusion.

“The film is to be considered as a whole in a fair, free and liberal spirit without dwelling too much on isolated dialogues or strong words used here and there in the film. The film is an artist’s creation.

“The filmmaker is trying to portray a story and the only point to consider is whether the film’s dialogues are set in all four corners of the story and whether the film’s dialogues are relevant to the facts and circumstances of that story,” the court said.

He said that in the present case, “characters in the film due to their living conditions and circumstances are forced to speak in harsh, foul language with swearing and swearing in their daily interactions.”

The court further stated that people living in such conditions as shown in the film cannot expect to speak in a decent language used by people residing in a normal area.

He also said that “no one can dictate to a filmmaker to use only decent language in his film and it is at his artistic discretion to choose the language but of course with the reasonable restrictions mentioned in article 19 (2) of the constitution”.

The court also noted that a report submitted by a special police team, after watching the film, stated that there was no statutory violation of any law and that no criminal offense had been established.

Regarding comments on the film on social media, the court said that it was sure that most people who commented on the film had not seen it in full.

“There is indeed freedom of speech and expression for every citizen in accordance with Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. But the above types of criticisms will do an injustice to one filmmaker by commenting on a film and making it unpopular without having watched his entire film,” the court said.

He further stated that making comments against a movie, making it unpopular, without watching it will harm filmmakers and artists who are also human beings.

“Their work can be a good artistic creation or sometimes it is not a good work. But before making comments against or in favor of it, it is the duty of citizens to monitor their creation.

“Artists are also part of our society. They create their work by spending days and months. Making bad comments on social media about an artistic creation, even without looking at the creation, is discouraged,” said the tribunal.

He ordered the state police chief to take steps to protect a filmmaker’s artistic freedom by taking appropriate action, including criminal prosecution, if an offense is committed in such situations.

The petitioner had argued that there was an “overdose of foul language” in the film and should therefore be removed from the OTT platform “as soon as possible”.

The petition had argued that the film “uses obscene words profusely without any curtain that offends the modesty of women and children”.

He had also argued that the film did not comply with the rules and regulations of the censorship board and did not display any statutory on-screen warnings when it showed characters drinking or smoking, as required by law.

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), represented by Additional General Counsel Grashious Kuriakose, had told the court that the film had been cleared for public viewing with an “A” certification and related disclaimers.

The council had also told the court that an uncensored version of the film had been released on the OTT platform.

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