Aquarium, the Malayalam film that is supposed to release on a streaming platform on Friday, landed in trouble after a petition was filed at the Delhi High Court on Wednesday seeking a ban on the “blasphemous” film’s release, Live Law reported.
The complainant Jessy Mani, a New Delhi-based native of Kerala who is a Catholic nun and a professional psychologist, claimed that the film would hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community. The film allegedly “depicts the sexual relationship of nuns with two priests” and an “emotional relationship with Jesus Christ”.
The petition alleged the film’s makers, Union of India and Saina Infotainments Pvt Ltd which also runs the OTT platform Saina Play, of “demoralising the members who joined in the priestly order and nunship”.
The plea accused the makers of portraying the “religious life of Catholic priests and nuns… merely as sex toys”.
The plea mentioned that there were scenes in the film that showed “sexual relationships among same-sex” as well as “with animals” thereby “tarnishing the reputation of the Catholic Church and its members” and that too “in a highly derogatory manner”.
Urging the court to either ban or halt the release of the film until a decision was made based on the petition, the plea stated that the film’s makers were releasing Aquarium on an OTT platform which is, presently, not under the purview of any kind of regulations.
In November 2020, the Centre brought digital news platforms and content providers such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video under the ambit of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. In February 2021, the Centre released new guidelines to regulate content in OTT platforms, social media intermediaries and digital news media. The government introduced the Code of Ethics and the Grievance Redressal Mechanism at a three-tier level- self-regulation by the publishers, self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers, oversight mechanism (the government shall coordinate and facilitate with the first and second tiers).
The Delhi High Court will be hearing the matter on Thursday.
Based on another complaint by another nun Sister Josia claiming the same, the Kerala High Court on Wednesday stayed the certification granted to the film for two weeks, Live Law reported. She argued that the film is “highly defamatory to Roman Catholic Christians.”
Both the petitioners claimed that the film was completed in 2012-13 and was initially titled Pithavinum Puthranum Parisudhathmavinum (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit). Later, while applying for certification from the Central Board of Film Certification, the producers removed the word Parisudhathmavinum, which was denied on the ground that the content of the film would have hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community, the petitioner claimed.
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“Aquarium, directed by T Dipesh, is set to release in his home country after winning several international awards. The reason for saying this was that his country of birth had banned the film. Deepesh was a victim of state terrorism. The aquarium was a fake made by Deepesh to tell a truth,” read one of the Instagram posts by the streaming platform.
According to the post, the director said: “You can not stop the aquarium, you can not destroy it, because it contains a lot of blood and juice of nuns,” on the day of the film’s earlier ban in the country.