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Court blocks 'blasphemous' Indian movie accused of defaming Catholics

Kerala court suspends the online release of 'Aquarium' after complaints about sex scenes involving priests and nuns

Court blocks 'blasphemous' Indian movie accused of defaming Catholics

'Aquarium' was denied certification in 2013 under a previous name. (Photo: Facebook)

A court in India has suspended for two weeks the release of a "blasphemous" movie following allegations that it insults Christians by portraying Catholic priests and nuns as "mere sex toys."

The High Court in southern India’s Kerala state on May 12 halted the release of Aquarium, a movie in the state’s Malayalam language, while accepting a petition against it.

Delhi High Court in the national capital also agreed to hear a similar petition and scheduled a hearing for May 17.

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The movie was set to be released online on May 14.

Aquarium, completed in 2013, failed to hit the screens that year as India’s Central Board of Film Certification denied permission because of its controversial and offensive content, said lawyer George Poonthottam.

Poonthottam, who appeared for petitioners Sister Josia S.D. and Sister Mary K.G in Kerala High Court, told UCA News that the movie’s producers had recently gained the film board’s certification “through fraud despite its malicious contents.”

There are scenes of sexual relationships among the same sex, between priests and nuns, and sex with animals in a highly derogatory manner

“The movie hurts the religious sentiments of Christians, especially Catholics, as it portrayed priests and nuns in a poor light,” Poonthottam said.

The producers initially named the movie Pithavinum Puthranum Parisudhathmavinum (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) but renamed it Aquarium as part of a clandestine attempt to get it released online, he said.

“They have hidden this fact of the name change from [the film certification] board, which had earlier blocked its release on account of its controversial and maligning content,” Poonthottam said.

Sister Jessy Mani, a member of the Sacred Heart Congregation who filed the petition in Delhi High Court, said the movie trivialized the life of Catholic priests and nuns by “portraying them as mere sex toys.”

“There are scenes of sexual relationships among the same sex, between priests and nuns, and sex with animals in a highly derogatory manner,” she said.

Sister Mani is among people who wrote to the federal Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the film certification board to ask them to withdraw permission for the movie’s online release.

The nun in her complaint said the movie’s trailer “available on various social media platforms depicted the sexual relationship of nuns with two priests and also an emotional relationship with Jesus Christ, thereby clearly tarnishing the reputation of the Catholic Church and its members, which in turn would demoralize” priests and nuns.

Certain dialogue in the movie also gives the “wrong impression” about Christians, the complaint said.

The movie also quotes from the Song of Songs book in the Bible in an attempt “to depict Jesus Christ as a romantic God with an intention of committing blasphemy” and “to hurt the religious feelings of Christians,” it said.

The Delhi court did not pass any stay order as Kerala High Court had already stayed its release

“The Delhi High Court has found merits in our submission and agreed to hear it in detail and posted it for May 17,” Jose Abraham, the nun’s lawyer, told UCA News on May 13.

The Delhi court did not pass any stay order as Kerala High Court had already stayed its release, he said.

The movie was submitted for certification in 2013 under the title Pithavinum Puthranum Parisudhathmavinum.

The federal board denied certification and rejected a review petition in 2015, blocking its release permanently, the lawyers said.

However, the producers gained permission for its online release on May 14 with a changed name, hiding facts and taking advantage of the relaxed regulations for online platforms, they said.

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