A Telugu short film has run into trouble because it’s titular character is named Seetha and the accompanying tagline ‘I’m not a virgin’ has supposedly offended religious sentiments, given the importance of the name in the Ramayana.
The Neredmet police in Hyderabad registered a case on Monday against the makers and lead female actor of the film.
According to reports, the case was booked on the basis of a complaint lodged by a BJP member, who alleged that the film’s title insulted religious feelings of one community.
The case has been registered under Section 295A of The Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”
The short film, directed by Kaushik Babu, produced by Neerja Naidu and starring Deepthi Sunaina, was uploaded on YouTube on March 12 following the controversy.
The plot revolves around a character named ‘Seetha’ who tells the men who wish to marry her that she’s not a virgin. Seetha plays a rape victim in the film and the narrative attempts to show how society stigmatises such survivors.
Elaborating on the idea behind the film, Kaushik had earlier said, “We are accepting of a porn star, but we shame a rape victim. What is her fault? That was the aversion with which I got the idea for the film.”
Anyone who engages with women’s rights and violence against women will find Kaushik’s statement as well as the film to be naive, misogynistic and problematic in many ways.
However, the objections made to the film have all been because of the title. As soon as the film was uploaded, several ‘response videos’ cropped up on YouTube, threatening the makers of the film and asking them to change its title.
Ironically, it appeared that none of them had watched the film, as they only seemed to have a problem with the title, claiming that it was ‘against Indian culture’.
Many even abused the makers and asked how it would be if they ‘said the same things’ about women in their own family.
Deepthi Sunaina, who plays the lead role in the film was also subjected to abuse on her Facebook page.
Kaushik Babu, the director, even attended a half-hour debate on TV9 Telugu, defending his decision.
However, with the abuse not stopping, the film’s makers have lashed back at critics, and served legal notices to the people who abused them.
In a long post on Facebook, Kaushik wrote, “In a motive to express my support to rape victims, I made a short film named ‘Seeta’ with a tag line ‘I’m not a Virgin.’ “Seeta”, was only a name of the character in my film and the title has absolutely no connection to any gods of Hindu culture. People with crooked motives have created unnecessary issue out of the name. ”
Kaushik also attached a picture of the legal notice.
He went on to add, “Healthy comments are always accepted, and I am open to suggestions. But since the poster was released, I have been abused in the most improper manner. I can accept the most hard criticism but will not tolerate derogatory comments. These people I have mentioned in the notice are few abusing my family and threatening to kill me…I waited, explained and did everything I could, to convince you, to understand the motive of my short film. I will no longer tolerate them using any abusive or foul language against me or my family. I have taken the decision to proceed legally…I thank each and every one who stood by me, for giving me support to express my views through the short film aloud.”