“KA BODYSCAPES”— Finding Happiness

“Ka Bodyscapes”

Finding Happiness

Amos Lassen

Three young people, Haris (Jason Chacko), a gay painter; Vishnu (Rajesah Kannen), a rural kabaddi player and their friend Sia, an activist who refuse to conform to dominant norms of femininity, struggle to find space and happiness in a conservative Indian City. Directed by Jayan Cherian, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFG) has found the film to be “offensive to ‘human sensibilities” due to “vulgarity, obscenity and depravity’ and Hindu deities depicted in poor light”. The Board found the portrayal of a gay relationship and a scene of a ‘lady masturbating’ to be unacceptable for public viewing and says that the film thus violates cinema guidelines and a certificate cannot be granted.

“Ka Bodyscapes” was inspired by a handful of real-life public movements in Kerala. Its central theme is a gay relationship between Haris, a young, talented but struggling artist, and Vishnu, a rural kabaddi player. The third protagonist is their friend, Sia, a Muslim fighting for women’s rights. Haris is preparing for his first solo exhibition and invites Vishnu to stay with him in the city. Vishnu belongs to a traditional Hindu family and despite social restrictions, manages to establish a live-in relationship with Haris. Sia is a dear friend and a regular visitor to their apartment, who fights against the misogynist impositions of her conservative relatives. At work, a used sanitary napkin is found in the bathroom and all women workers are strip-searched. She questions this humiliation and posts a photograph of a sanitary napkin soaked in blood on Facebook. (This is based on a real incident in Kerala that triggered off social media campaigns. The three characters are soon involved in a relentless battle against conservative moral codes and they struggle to find happiness in their own world. Sia leaves home and moves in with the couple, but all three are eventually evicted from the rented apartment and Haris paintings are all destroyed.

The cast is full of activist that the director says represent different facets of social life. Naseera, who plays Sia, works as a journalist and she maintains, “Censor Board members are sick with homophobia. I really don’t understand what they mean by ‘obscenity’. The film depicts a relationship between two gay men; there is no explicit expression of intercourse or anything close to that. Intimate scenes between heterosexual lovers are very common in mainstream cinema—the Censor Board doesn’t seem to have a problem with that.” Most of the incidents in the film are based on real life situations and she says that this might be the reason the authorities are upset with it”.

The LGBT community in Keralahas welcomed the film saying that it is political movie and are upset that CBFC gives certificates to films that show explicit violence and sexual harassment. It often does not find any problem with dialogues and action in mainstream cinema that are derogatory to women and sexual minorities.

Director Cherian says there is no substance to the allegation that Hindu gods have been insulted in the film. Artists and writers create art by interpreting the work done in the past. That is a usual practice followed in the world of art and literature and he feels institutions like the CBFC are stuck with archaic moral codes and standards. The irony here is that the act of censorship causes people to pay attention to the film.

News reports claim that the film say it is the story of a gay couple Vishnu and Haris and their friend Sia but that it is a lot more than the love story and provocative criticism of growing intolerance. The new religious police in India thrives by restricting bodies and their desires. The film, by celebrating bodily functions and desires, invites the audience to look critically at such policing. Haris, the painter who is working towards an exhibition, celebrates the male body by depicting it in various stages of pleasure and action in his painting series called ‘Ka Bodyscapes’. His friend Vishnu moves in with him and is the model for most of these paintings. They are close, attached and attracted to each other, and there is a strong sexual energy in their physical intimacy. The movie spends a lot of time pausing over parts of Vishnu’s well-built body and celebrates its beauty. Vishnu’s body is celebrated throughout the movie.

Sia, their friend, has a different battle but it is one that comes out of associating shame with bodily functions. At the end of the movie, Sia and Haris’ pay a huge price for looking at the world through a liberal and progressive lens. The movie is not interested in the inner lives of these characters, but in the consequences of their intellectual and personal choices and due to that “Ka Bodyscapes” is an important movie that depicts the consequences of Hindu fundamentalism. Human rights in India are eroding quickly and narratives are needed that enable people to make sense of this chaos that is taking place. By telling a story, this movie

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brings out the diverse themes of religious fundamentalism, women’s movements, homophobia and the loss freedom of expression.

Homosexuality that is still illegal in India and a social taboo, as is any hint of feminism.

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