Papilio Buddha – The controversial film to hit screens in March!


Jayan Cherian’s  Papilio Buddha was in the news for all the wrong reasons. For the past several months, the director had been trying to get a censor certification for the film.

The certification was denied by the Censor Board due to a variety of reasons ranging from nudity and obscene language to denigration of symbols of Buddha, Gandhi and Ambedkar

Finally, the board decided to give certification to the film after the makers agreed to mute a controversial speech by Ambedkar in the movie.

Now the film preview screening is going on metro cities in India.

 Papilio Buddha to hit the screens in March.


In a pristine village in the Western Ghats of India, a group of landless people squatted in the government land where they face opposition from the local entrenched political entities and upper caste landlords. These people known as “dalits”, who had been facing discrimination, displacement and physical oppression for centuries embrace Buddhism as a new form of cultural and religious identity, squat the government land and claim ownership.

Papilio Buddha tells their story through the experiences of Shankaran, a dalit youth who though has received higher education, is indifferent to the plight of his people and does not participate in the struggles of his father, Kariyan, who was a valiant communist but now feels betrayed by the movement. A close friend Manju, a brave activist who runs a pre-school at the squatted land, and drives an auto-rickshaw taxi which is a male profession and is harassed for that audacity, which leads to a fight with the male drivers when she slaps a powerful local union leader.

Lazy Sankaran mainly surrounds himself with the media people and NGO workers from outside, who are there as observers of the struggles of squatters. He comes into contact with Jack an American lepidopterist who travels the region in pursuit of “ Papilio Buddha” a rare and exotic variety of butterflies found only in this richly bio-diverse region. He assists Jack in collecting them which is illegal and is caught by local police. Jacks escapes punishment being an American white, but Shankaran is arrested as a domestic terrorist and severely tortured.

He is comforted by Manju, with whom he develops a relation and is slowly awakened to the tragedies of his people, their sufferings and agonies. He joins Manju in rising up against injustices and indignities. Manju, following the earlier altercation with the union leader is brutally beaten, gang- raped and paraded naked in the streets of the town.

A riot erupts which is viciously suppressed by the local police. The state government intervenes to evict the squatters from their land with the assistance of all the political parties including Gandhian peaceniks. A standoff with the power structure ensues which the Dalits cannot win and they are driven out. In an event reminiscent of “Trail of Tears”, the defeated, beaten and demoralized Dalits are forced to flee their dear habitat which has sustained them for centuries with its rich ecosystem of rainforests…


To break a butterfly on a wheel – K Satchidanandan in Tehelka

Between Gandhi and Cultural crap – J Devika in Kafila

Counter narrative – The Hindu

Buddha shalabhavum buddha darshanavum – Dr TT Sreekumar in Mathrubhumi weekly

Papilio Buddha which scuttled the New wave cinema – PP Sathyan in Deshabhimani weekly

poompattakalude Desham – NP Ashly in Malayalam

Whom does Buddha and Butterflies scare – Uday Kiran in Nalamidam

History of censorship:

Banned – Aug 2012 – CBFC denied certification mainly because of the politics discussed in the film.

Review committee in Oct 2012 – Asked for 25+ changes to the film as a condition to lift the ban

Appellate tribunal in Dec 2012 – Instructed the censor board to issue certification without cuts

Kerala Police in Dec 2012 – Blocked a pvt screening of the film during IFFK without giving any reason.

A still from Papilo Buddha

The journey so far:

Censor certificate issued on Dec 31, 2012

Official Selection to British Film Institute's 27th London LGFF 2013. The only Indian film among the 60+ selections.

Kerala state film awards 2013 Special jury mention for direction – Jayan Cherian

Kerala state film awards 2013 Special jury mention for acting – Saritha Sunil


Jayan K Cherian is a New York based, India born film maker, graduated with honors from Hunter College, BA in Film and Creative Writing and MFA from The City College of New York in Writing, Direction, and Cinematography. Pappilio Buddha (2012) is his debut feature film and he made several experimental documentaries and narrative shorts such as: Shape of the Shapeless (2010) Love in the Time of Foreclosure (2009), Hidden Things (2009), Soul of Solomon (2008), Capturing the Signs of God (2008), Holy Mass (2007), Tree of Life (2007), Simulacra the Reality of the Unreal (2007), The Inner Silence of the Tumult (2007), Hid-entity (2007), and Tandava the Dance of Dissolution (2006).

Jayan's films were screened in Short Film Corner of Festival De Cannes 2011, Britidh Film Institute LLGF Festival 2011, Rio de Janeiro International Short Film Festival 2011, International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala 2011, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Athens International Film Festival, Austin Gay&Lesbian International Film Festival, San Francisco Shorts International Film Festival, International Film festival South Africa, Coney Island Film Festival, Oaxaca International Independent Film and Video Festival Mexico, Big Apple Film Festival at Tribeca Cinema New York, Kenyan International Film Festival, CUNY Asian American Film Festival, ViBGYOR International Film festival, Millennium Film Workshop and Anthology Film Archives in New York City. Shape of the Shapeless won: Silver Jury prize in San Francisco Shorts, Honorable Mentions at Athens International Film Festival, East Man Kodak Award for best Cinematography and Best Documentary Award at City Visions 2010. Jayan has also published four collections of poetry in Malayalam which have won many recognitions.


Prakash Bare is a theater and indie film enthusiast focusing on acting and production of quality media content of social and global relevance targeting audience around the world. His film projects, produced under the banner Silicon Meia and honoured with 9 Kerala state film awards, are:

Sufi Paranja Katha (What the Sufi said, 2010), a period film which showcases the native culture of religious tolerance.

Janaki (Daughter of Earth, 2011) won Best Children's rights film at Lola Kenya festival

Ivan Megharoopan(2011), based on the life and works of popular Malayalam poet P

Antony P Thekkek better known by his pen name Thampi Antony, is a Poet, actor, and producer. He has played a variety of roles, most notably as a character actor in several Malayalam, English movies. Thampi, also the owner and CEO of several health care facilities in Northern California, produced several Malayalm movies under his banner Kayal films.


MJ Radhakrishnan is one of the most acclaimed cinematographers in Indian Cinema. His films have been screened at several prominent film festivals around the world including Cannes, Toronto, Chicago, Rhode Island and Rotterdam. One of his works, Marana Simhasanam (English: Throne of Death French: Le Trone de la mort), won Cam̩ra d'Or (Golden Camera Award) in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. He also won an award at the 2008 South Asian International Film Festival, London for the film Bioscope. He has also won numerous awards within India including five Kerala State Awards for best cinematographer Рfor films Desadanam, Karunam, Adayalanagal, Bioscope and The way home. MJ started his career in cinema as an associate cameraman to Shaji N Karun. He has worked for over 75 feature films and several documentaries and has worked with some of the prominent Indian filmmakers including Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Murali Nair, Shaji N karun, TV Chandran, and Dr Biju.