The 25th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), which moved to its second host city, Kochi, on Wednesday started on a troubled note after the Congress called for a boycott of the festival after organisers failed to invite National Film Award-winning Malayalam actor Salim Kumar for the festival’s inaugural ceremony.
Hibi Eden, Congress MP from Ernakulam, announced the boycott on Facebook and wrote, “If Salim Kumar is not there, we are not there. Congress boycotts film festival in Kochi.”
According to Manorama News, when Salim asked the organising committee why he was not invited, he was told that he was overaged to be extended an invitation. Salim claimed that other invitees, like filmmakers Aashiq Abu and Amal Neerad, were roughly of his age and his juniors at college. He said that he supported the Congress’ call for the boycott as the festival has been inviting people who had a political inclination towards the Left.
Refuting Salim’s statement, filmmaker Kamaluddin Mohammed Majeed and chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, that hosts IFFK, said, “There is no politics in this. Salim Kumar was invited and has to be a part of the festival. I will certainly speak with him about this. There is no bigger problem here.”
He said that the organising committee consisted of members from different trade organisations and the festival gives an opportunity to younger artists to participate in the inaugural function.
Expressing solidarity with Salim, Congress MP of Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor said that it was “disgraceful pettiness” by the Left Front government of Kerala to sideline Salim. “Those who do such things are diminishing themselves, not the stars they slighted, who are way above them in stature,” he wrote on Twitter.
Leader of the Opposition and Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala condemned the festival’s behaviour towards Salim.
The attitude of LDF Govt to insult cine artists for being supporters of @INCIndia ideology is disgrace towards art itself. Keeping away a senior artist like Salim Kumar, a national award winner from inaugration of IFFK is highly condemned.
— Ramesh Chennithala (@chennithala) February 16, 2021
The Kerala government is headed by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and leader of the Left Democratic Front, which is in alliance with the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Vijayan inaugurated the IFFK festival this year.
The IFFK, which began on February 10 in Thiruvananthapuram, will continue in Kochi until February 21, followed by the Thalassery edition, which will be held between February 23 and 27. In Palakkad, the film festival will be held between March 1 and 5. Around 40 films will be screened at the festival.