Actress Priya Prakash Varrier, who stole the heart of the nation with her cute antics in a song of an upcoming Malyalam movie, on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the FIRs against her and the director of the film for hurting religious sentiments of Muslims.
The actress, film director Omar Lulu and others sought an ex-parte stay on the FIR and police complaints, and also appropriate orders restraining other states from registering such FIRs.
Some Muslim activists had lodged an FIR against the team of “Oru Adaar Love” in Hyderabad under Section 295A (hurting religious sentiments) of the Indian Penal Code on February 14.
A group in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad also filed a police complaint against Varrier and Lulu on the same grounds.
On Monday, Varrier’s counsel Pallavi Pratap told the apex court that the criminal complaints instituted by “various fringe groups” are based on a “distorted and incorrect interpretation of the song”.
“The claims that it hurts the religious sentiments of the Muslim community are without any basis,” it said.
Stressing that an amount of Rs 1.5 crore has been spent on the movie, the plea said “such flimsy and baseless complaints and FIRs cause nothing but hindrance in freedom of speech”.
The contentious scene where Varrier winks at a boy features the Mappila lyrics — a traditional Muslim song from the Malabar region of Kerala — that celebrate the love between Prophet Mohammed and his first wife Khadija.
The complainants have primarily objected to the use of Mappila as background music in the flirting scene.
However, the petition said it was “hard to fathom” that a song which has been in existence “for the past 40 years… was cherished by the Muslim community in Kerala is now being treated as an insult… it cannot suddenly offend the religious sentiment of the Muslim community”.
The plea said that the fringe elements have “misunderstood” the lyrics of the song.
“Filing of criminal complaints and registration of FIRs by the police in multiple states on the basis of complaints by fringe elements… has adversely affected the petitioners’ right to life, liberty and freedom of expression.
“…the legality of the content of the film and the certification on the same can only be dealt with under law by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC),” it said.
Citing the apex court’s order on November 16, 2017 that a film or a drama or a novel or a book is a creation of art, the plea said these complaints were contrary to the order.
The Supreme Court has observed earlier that an artist has freedom to express himself and a thought-provoking film “should never mean that it has to be didactic or in any way puritanical”.