In a significant legal development, the Kerala High Court convened on January 16 to address a plea lodged by Joji Verghese, challenging a scene in the Malayalam film “Antony” that portrays a gun concealed within a Bible. The petitioner contended that such a depiction within the film, scheduled for release, infringed upon the religious sentiments of the Christian community.
The matter was presented before a single-judge bench presided over by Justice Devan Ramachandran, who proceeded to make notable observations regarding religion and tolerance during the hearing. Justice Ramachandran emphasised the importance of tolerance and expressed dissatisfaction with what he perceived as undue intolerance towards creative expressions. He pointed out that similar scenes, incorporating religious texts in various contexts, have been prevalent in Hollywood films as early as the 1960s and 1970s.
Addressing the broader issue, Justice Ramachandran remarked, “Should we be so intolerant that even for a passing reference to a book you should take up objection? Even if it is a Bible, doesn’t there need to be a negative reference or connotation for you to object? Bible is used to hide a gun so Christians are unhappy. If it is Gita, Hindus will become unhappy. If it is the Quran, Muslims will be unhappy.”
The court questioned the specificity of identifying the book as the Bible, given that the scene in question was fleeting and may not have registered in the viewers’ minds. It emphasised that the film had undergone censorship by experts before its distribution on multiple platforms.
Justice Ramachandran, displaying a commitment to fairness, agreed to view the allegedly objectionable part from the film “Antony” if the petitioner provided the video evidence. The bench acknowledged the petitioner’s request for additional time to present supplementary evidence.
Additionally, the court expressed reservations about the nature of such petitions, stating that they might inadvertently serve to benefit movie producers by generating either negative or positive publicity, thereby expanding the film’s reach. The court announced that the matter would be revisited in two weeks for further deliberation.
The film “Antony,” at the centre of this legal dispute, narrates the life of the titular character, depicting his interactions with fellow gangsters. The storyline takes a turn when Kalyani Priyadarshan’s character, Ann Maria, enters his life, compelling Antony to assume the role of her guardian following her mother’s demise. The court’s upcoming decision will play a crucial role in determining the fate of this cinematic creation.