Hindu protest disrupts India film fest

Controversy about doc on painter who depicts deities nude

PANAJI, India - India's most prestigious film festival has put off screening a decades-old documentary by its best known painter after complaints from Hindu nationalists who oppose the artist for sketching Hindu deities in the nude.

Maqbool Fida Husain's paintings of naked Hindu goddesses have delighted art lovers but enraged Hindu zealots who have attacked his house in the past and vandalized shows displaying his work.

"Through the Eyes of a Painter," an award-winning short film directed by Husain 40 years ago, was to be screened at the 39th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa on Tuesday, but organizers put off the screening.

The move came after a group called Hindu Janajagruti Samiti wrote a letter to Goa's governor, asking him to stop the screening.

"We were advised by the Goan authorities to defer the screening of the film because they were anticipating a law and order problem," festival director S. M. Khan told Reuters.

The group said screening Husain's film was "akin to hurting the sentiments of Hindus."

The nonagenarian painter, whose work is typically a blend of cubism and classical Indian styles that fetch millions on international art markets, has often been dragged to court by Hindu groups, and he still faces many legal cases in India.

Husain now lives in London and Dubai.

The festival organizers said Husain's 18-minute documentary, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film festival in 1967, is not a controversial one.

"The film is nothing but a depiction of Rajasthan through Husain's eyes, but we don't want to take any chances," Khan said, referring to a western Indian desert state popular with tourists.

The 10-day festival showing 60 foreign language films and 80 Indian ones ends on December 2.