The information and broadcasting ministry has overruled the decision of the IFFI jury and pulled out Malayalam movie "S Durga" and Marathi film "Nude" from the 48th edition of the film festival in Goa later this month, the movies' directors say.
"S Durga" director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan and "Nude" director Ravi Jadhav said they are shocked and disappointed by the decision to drop the films from the Panorama section.
A jury member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, termed the ministry's decision "unprecedented".
The ministry did not respond to the reports.
"The jury's recommendations are final and cannot be changed without consulting them. But the ministry has gone ahead and dropped the two films on its own," he said.
"Nude", he added, is so good that the 13-member Panorama jury, headed by Sujoy Ghosh, recommended it as the opening film for 48th International Film Festival of India in Goa from November 20-28.
He described "Nude" as a strong feminist film and "S Durga", a movie with a strong message about women's safety. The Malayalam film was orginally called "Sexy Durga" and had won awards in international film festivals.
According to him, the jury's recommendation is usually made public almost immediately after it hands the list to the minister's office.
The jury submitted its list to the ministry on September 20-21 but the line-up was made public only recently and without the name of the two films, he disclosed.
A disheartened Sasidharan alleged that the list was delayed on purpose.
He said he is in shock and has not received any letter from the ministry about why "S Durga" did not make the cut.
The film, a road movie that follows the horrifying experience of two hitchhikers, a man and a woman, at the hands of two men in the dead of the night, won the Hivos Tiger Award in the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2017.
Sasidharan told PTI that he's planning to approach the court after this "clever move" by the ministry.
"They are supposed to publish the list two-three weeks before the festival begins but they delayed it on purpose. It was a clever move. There's only a week left till the festival and it will be difficult for us to go to the court now. But I will file a case in the Kochi High Court," Sasidharan said.
The director said some jury members told him the two films were in the list given to the ministry.
Jadhav, whose film depicts the struggle of a woman secretly working as a nude model in Mumbai, is equally disappointed.
He said he has written a letter to the ministry to know what exactly happened and why his film was rejected.
"Give me some reason at least. It was selected as the opening film. It was a big honour. I am really disappointed and shocked to hear that it has been dropped. Nobody informed me about the decision," Jadhav told PTI.
Jadhav, whose previous credits include critically acclaimed films such as "Natrang", "Balak Palak" and "Balgandharva"
, said it is difficult for him to accept that a selected film has been dropped without any explanation.
"My film was chosen for this, you can't take away my right. Just talk to me once? My experience of IFFI in all these years has been very good. My previous films were screened there as well."
He said he didn't make the film to titillate anybody. It is, Jadhav said, dedicated to nude models across the world who give their body for the education of art students.
Rajesh Kumar Singh, a member of the preview committee that selects entries from the Indian Panorama section for the international competition at IFFI, took up the issue of the two films on Twitter.
"Sexy Durga is now part of Indian Panorama section at IFFI and will now be exhibited at Goa and across India," Singh, a producer-director, tweeted on November 9, tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani.
He put out another tweet, again tagging Irani, "If any of the Panorama Jury dares to disagree with the decision to drop two artistically bad films Nude & Sexy Durga from Panorama line up, their understanding of film art & craft is poor. It was a bad decision to select these third rate films in Panorama. @smritiirani."
Scriptwriter Apurva Asrani, a jury member, has praised the films for presenting "a powerful & empathetic portrait of women in todays India".
The opening film for the festival now is the Hindi film "Pihu" by Vinod Kapry.