How a wink triggered a court battle over a hit song in India
India‘s top court has dismissed a blasphemy case against an actress whose provocative wink in a music video went viral earlier this year.
A conservative Muslim group had argued that Priya Varrier, 18, committed blasphemy against Islam by appearing to flirt with a boy in a video featuring a “sacred song.” The song, titled Manikya Malaraya Poovi, was about the Prophet Muhammad‘s wife.
The brief viral video shows Varrier exchanging flirtatious looks with a boy in a school auditorium while the song plays. The clip was taken from Oru Adaar Love, an upcoming Malayalam-language romantic comedy set in school.
The clip has been viewed more than 14.6 million times on Varrier’s Instagram page, and more than 16 million times on YouTube.
An engineering student filed the initial complaint against Varrier and the film’s director, Omar Lulu in Hyderabad in February, shortly after the clip was released. The complainant argued that the song made “objectionable” reference to Muhammad’s wife, NDTV reported.
Police accepted the complaint and charged Varrier and Lulu under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.” Anyone found guilty of the charge can face up to three years in prison or a fine.
Varrier petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the matter shortly after she was charged, saying the song was not meant to offend.
“The song describes and praises the love between the Prophet Muhammad and his first wife Khadeeja and this has been misunderstood by the complainants,” she said in her petition. She added that the song has been popular among Muslims in the state of Kerala for a long time.
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The Supreme Court of India dismissed the case on Friday in a scathing ruling from Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
“Somebody in a film sings a song, and you have no other job but to file a case,” Misra said to the complainants.
“It is should not be like you watch a movie and then come out and file a complaint about it just to gain some mileage,” Misra said, according to The Hindu.
The court found that there was “no malicious intent to hurt religious sentiments.”
The film, Oru Adaar Love, was originally slated for release in March. The film was shelved pending the outcome of the case, and will now be released next month.
India’s Supreme Court has occasionally been forced to intervene in cases in which films have offended religious sensibilities in the country.
In January, for instance, the court overturned a four-state ban on the blockbuster Padmaavat, a film loosely based on a poem about a Hindu queen. Critics had alleged the movie contained an inappropriate romantic scene involving the queen, although no such scene made it into the final cut of the film.
Indian censors have banned more than a dozen films over the years. They’ve also occasionally intervened with foreign films deemed to contain too much kissing.
The James Bond film Spectre, for instance, was censored to remove kissing scenes in 2015.
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