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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Deconstructing Karan Johar’s attempt at martyrdom

Karan Johar’s statement on the eve of his movie’s release and the accompanying breast-beating among our chardonnay-swigging socialists is mystifying, but not unexpected. No sooner has the embers of a phony ‘intolerance’ debate died down that another crafty narrative has emerged from its ashes.

This new, layered narrative holds that ever since Narendra Modi-led NDA government came to power, India is in the grip of a creeping fascist rule that uses any ruse — such as vilification of poor Pakistan and its well-meaning people — to whip up frothy jingoism which is then utilised as a danda against dissenting Indians. Johar’s video message where he proclaims his patriotism fits perfectly as the latest example of such government-sponsored persecution.

Our “desh“, cry anguished, indignant ‘liberals’, has quickly undergone so much “badal” that it can’t be recognised from even two years ago. Marauding barbarians are no longer waiting at the gates, they have broken through and are now pillaging the ‘idea of India’. The ‘secular fabric’ is being put through the washing machine of claustrophobic hatred. Armed men in jackboots are putting guns to the head of our artistes and creators and forcing them to say: “yes, yes, I am a patriot too”!

I use the word ‘mystifying’ because Johar’s statement reveals a lot more in the subtext than it does in the words made explicit. And the argument hidden in the subtext is based either on lack of information or a faulty interpretation of events tailored to tap into the victimhood narrative for easy conflation with the larger pseudo-liberal charge of “fascism” against Modi government.

karankaran

Karan Johar in his video statement.

Before I come to the timing of Johar’s message, which is no less significant, let’s first do away with the cobweb of deception that he spins.

The nub of the debate is that the director’s upcoming Diwali release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM), also featuring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, is under threat. The threat has emerged from two sources.

One, a body of mainly single-screen theatre owners in four states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Goa have decided not to screen ADHM keeping in mind “public sentiment”. The Cinema Owners Exhibitors Association of India’s (COEAI) decision is not binding on any of its members.

As Indian Express points out, “only two institutions can disallow a film from playing at cinemas – CBFC and the court of law. No organisation, association or political outfit can threaten or advice to ban a film from cinemas that too after the film has been cleared by the CBFC. Such a ban is illegal.”

Great. So what has been the role played by CBFC, a government body?

The Pahlaj Nihalani-headed Central Board of Film Certification has cleared the movie with a U/A certificate. Nihalani has, in fact, criticised the cinema owners for their attempt to stop the screening. Crucially, multiplexes, the target audience for Johar’s vanilla flicks, have not sought any ban.

The second threat to ADHM comes from Mumbai-based Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) which has issued a veiled threat against multiplexes. MNS leader Amey Khopkar was quoted by PTI as saying: “We will oppose the screening of the movie everywhere in the state. If any multiplex operator dares to screen the film, they (operators) should remember that multiplexes are decorated with expensive glass sheets”.

Though the Central and state governments have had no role to play in these moves, a point is being made that it is the responsibility of the administrative machinery to provide security for the film. Fair enough. Let us take a look at what Devendra Fadnavis administration has done on this front. Can it be accused of dereliction of duty?

A team from Johar’s Dharma Productions has met Mumbai Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar and Joint Police Commissioner (law and order) Deven Bharti. The team, which was also accompanied by Vijay Singh of Fox Star Studios (the distributors) and Mukesh Bhatt (president of Film & Television Producers Guild of India) has sought protection for multiplexes who plan to screen the film from 28 October.

The Telegraph reports that cops have assured all help from their end with Deputy Commissioner of Police Ashok Dudhe clarifying: “Mumbai police will provide adequate protection to cinema theatres as and when required.”

It’s clear that not only has the government at any level not called for a ban, the administration of the sole state where ADHM faces threats of vandalism from a marginalised political party has promised all help and protection. The cops have assured that all multiplexes and even single screen theaters would be adequately insured and protected. And to suggest that a few non-participating single-screen owners can even mildly affect ADHM’s box-office collections is laughable.

So the question is, whom did Johar refer to when he said “it’s not fair to scrap the film now. I respect the country’s sentiment today. I condemn terror and have immense respect for the Army. But to ban the film is unfair to my crew…”

If the government has ensured protection and multiplexes are ready to screen his Diwali release, why is he so perturbed? The answer, as the newest winner of Nobel Prize in Literature would have said, “is blowin’ in the wind.”

Johar may not be a critically acclaimed director but as the maker of box office hits, few would know the pulse of the nation better than him. Patriotism might be a dirty word in some conceited circles but it throbs in the veins of unwashed commoners. The consecutive attacks on our soldiers from non-state actors reared, funded and furbished by Pakistan has been the proverbial straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

When Indian army moved across the LoC and demolished some of the terror factories, they were also acknowledging that collective call for payback emanating from a billion Indians. A shaker of dreams and mover of emotions like Johar would understand that this impulse, right now, can only be ignored at his own peril.

Johar’s statement, therefore, wasn’t induced by gun-toting government agents, as some bilious ‘liberals’ have suggested. It was a belated acknowledgement of that will that is fed up with Pakistan-sponsored terror and disgusted with apologists from this side of the border who routinely justify the million perfidies of that state for reasons best known to them.

A common refrain is that people-to-people connect goes a long way in stabilising and maintaining peaceful a relationship with neighbours, however misguided they are.

If cross-cultural exchanges are beneficial to both nations, why have ties not been normalised despite seven decades of exchanges? Why have we been forced to fight repeated wars against Pakistan despite a thousand ghazal concerts and a million cocktail parties? Why has Pakistan slapped a blanket ban on all our movies and channels? Is the onus of maintaining good relations only our prerogative? Won’t business as usual send a signal that Pakistan is to be rewarded for its perpetual delinquency?

Much has been said about Johar’s apparent “groveling tone” and how he has been unjustly forced into compliance. The self-shaming is an invocation of the same narrative that sees fascism behind every ticking of clock.

Truth is, the government has made it amply clear that visas of Pakistani actors will not be revoked and they are free to work as before and that people-to-people exchange will continue. In absence of a tangible reason, Johar’s “groveling tone” is therefore a clarion call against public mood that is in favour of a spontaneous boycott. It is this that has sent the chill in his spine.

Johar kept mum till he realised that he may be hit with a financial loss. In his words on not casting Pakistani actors “Going forward I would like to say that of course I will not engage with talent from the neighboring country given the circumstance,” there is still a sense of outrage. The subtext is that of a war that he doesn’t recognise and has no stake in.

After all, the mortars that rain on our border, the bullets that pierce the walls of our villages are far removed from his glitzy stratosphere. The world that the likes of Johar and Bhatt inhabit is different. They spreads love in eternal spring, guided by mellifluous ghazals that speak of common ancestry while our men in uniforms ring up relatives of a 24-year-old sepoy to tell them that their breadwinner has “attained martyrdom”.

As a retired Indian Major recently wrote in an open letter: “Will sending Pakistani artists back, stopping cricket and business with Pakistan actually end terror from Pakistan? No, it most certainly will not. But there is an emotion called solidarity. You cannot make films, play cricket and do business as if everything is fine, because it is not. It makes the soldier wonder aloud, “Why should I alone bear the weight of conflict?”

For our ‘narrative-makers’ though, Johar’s attempt at ‘martyrdom’ rings truer than the deaths of a hundreds of Sudhees Kumars. Sudhees who?

Directors wanting to hire Pak artistes should go there: FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Just a year ago FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan was in the eye of the storm. The dust from the FTII row has settled, but he is now fighting battles on very different fronts.One of them is with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which has unanimously rejected Milan Bhaumik’s Danga, in which Chauhan has played Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. “If the Censor Board members do not know history, they should call historians…. but facts cannot be obliterated,” Chauhan told DNA.Waiting to change into the attire of Ravana for the last scene of the Luv Kush Ramlila in the Capital with a picture of Hanuman before him, he spoke against the outright rejection of the film by the Censor Board.The director has moved the Calcutta High Court against the CBFC refusing to clear his film, which portrays the Kolkata communal riots of August 16, 1946. The FTII chairman had even spoken to CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani last month, but was told that the decision of the Board was unanimous. Members of the Board felt the content of the film was too sensitive and could create communal tension. Chauhan recalls that he spent three hours each day getting the makeup done, after which he “resembled Mookerjee” and 45 minutes later getting it removed. “I belong to his ideology… He is a person who did not get his due but the government of the day follows his ideology… Jinnah wanted West Bengal to be part of Pakistan. Mookerjee took the support of the Muslim League and stopped Jinnah from doing that,” said Chauhan, who joined the BJP in February, 2004, the same day as cricketer Navjot Singh Siddhu.Chauhan said the Censor Board had objection to the word “ayash” being used in the movie for Jawaharlal Nehru. “I said Nehru was not the Prime Minister in 1946.” On the raging debate over Pakistani actors in India, Chauhan said well before the surgical strikes, he had suggested to the home ministry and ministry of external affairs to take steps to stop the Indian High Commission in Islamabad from giving work permits to Pakistani artistes.“Directors who want to hire Pakistani artistes should go to Pakistan and shoot. I don’t know how permissions are given there,” he said. However, Chauhan has refrained from raising the issue with the government now as he was not with the Cinema and Television Artists Association (CINTAA) anymore.The media is neither pursuing him nor flooding him with calls now. “It’s over a year now, but neither Rahul Gandhi nor Arvind Kejriwal have come to find out what’s happening in FTII. How has everyone forgotten what had become such a big issue,” he said.Meanwhile at FTII, with life back to normal, his team has suggested making the institute financially self-sustaining. It has initiated short term courses in cinematography, screenplay writing and acting across the country to fund it. Besides, it is planning to make sets in the 32 acres of land it has in Pune and has also sent study teams to Ramaji Rao studios and Film City.

Arvind Kejriwal recommends ‘Udta Punjab’ to ruling Badals

Amidst the controversial release of ‘Udta Punjab’ yesterday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday cornered his Punjab counterpart Parkash Singh Badal and said the movie aptly shows active involvement of politicians in the prevailing drug menace in the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-ruled state. Kejriwal said Punjab’s situation is quite bad as the politicians are freely distributing drugs in the state. “Watched Udta Punjab. Movie shows politicians running drug rackets, drugs distributed freely during elections. Punjab situation quite bad,” he tweeted.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Delhi Chief Minister showered praise on ‘Udta Punjab’ and said Badal must watch this ‘powerful film’ to see what they have done to Punjab. “Just watched ‘Udta Punjab’. Very powerful. Badals must watch it to see what they have done to Punjab,” he said in a series of tweets.After coming under scrutiny of the censor board, ‘Udta Punjab’ finally hit the screens yesterday and the social media was abuzz with views from celebrities and eminent politicians.The CBFC had issued a fresh release certificate to ‘ Udta Punjab’ after the Bombay High Court passed the film with just one cut and three disclaimers.’Udta Punjab’, the movie which stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor and Diljit Dosanjh in lead role, has been passed with A-certificate.

NGO moves Supreme Court for stay on Udta Punjab

A Punjab-based NGO on Wednesday challenged the Bombay High Court’s order for release of the controversial film ‘Udta Punjab’ in the Supreme Court seeking stay on the movie’s release.The NGO named Human Rights Awareness Association has said that the film projects Punjab in bad light, adding that the high court should not interfere with the Censor Board’s decision.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It sought an urgent hearing, but the apex court said that it would take up the matter only after the petition was cleared by the court registry.The Bombay High Court has cleared the decks for the release of the movie with a direction to delete the objectionable urination scene by displaying a revised disclaimer.The plea for urgent hearing was mentioned before a vacation bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and L Nageswara Rao, which asked the NGO, to first complete the formalities of filing the petition in the Supreme Court Registry after which it will be listed for hearing.Since the movie is scheduled to be released on Friday, the NGO is likely to mention for hearing the case tomorrow.He said that Bombay High Court should not have quashed the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) order for deletion of objectionable scenes.In the meantime, the Delhi High Court in a separate plea, filed by the same organisation earlier, today directed the movie’s producer, Phantom Films, to “modify” the promos in accordance with the Bombay HC order and ensure that the “urination scene” is also withdrawn from online sites like YouTube.Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Films had challenged the CBFC’s revising committee order of June 6 directing for a total of 13 changes in the movie in the Bombay High Court.The film maker has contended that the CBFC is not empowered by law to censor films, as the word censor is not included in the Cinematograph Act.As per the revised disclaimer, the ‘Udta Punjab’ makers will have to delete reference to Pakistan. They will also have to make additions to the disclaimer to the effect that the movie, its characters and the filmmakers do not promote the use of drugs and abusive language, and that the film is only attempting to depict the reality of drug abuse.Actors Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Diljit Dosanjh starrer film depicts how a large number of youth in Punjab have succumbed to drugs.

HC raps ‘grandmother’ CBFC, clears Udta Punjab with 1 cut

The Bombay High Court, on Monday, allowed the release of movie Udta Punjab, with just one cut and a revised disclaimer. The court noted that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had suggested 13 cuts, which would have taken away the essence of the film.The scene in which actor Shahid Kapoor is shown peeing in public will have to be deleted and the disclaimer changed by incorporating the changes suggested by the board and the court.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The film, which was based on the theme of Punjab’s growing drug menace, is scheduled to be released on June 17.Admonishing the censor board for acting like a “grandmother”, a division bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice Dr Shalini Phansalkar Joshi said, “In today’s world, film-makers are forthright and direct in their presentations not only in technical areas but also in their story. There is a marked difference from earlier generation of film makers. Just because they are not soft, subtle and slow in the presentation they cannot be punished so harshly.”The court also said that the setting of the film and the language the characters use have to be decided by the fimmakers, and that no one can dictate terms to them.The CBFC had demanded removal of the word Punjab from the sign board of the film title and deletion of expletive words and certain scenes.The producer of the film, Anurag Kashyap’s Phantom Productions, had argued that all the scenes and language used are integral part…in order to project the characters…and if deleted, would take away the essence of the film and the message the makers want it to convey.The bench, going through each of the suggested cuts, said, “Taking an entire view of the film and the message of drug abuse in the state, which the authorities have not been able to curb, its makers cannot be stopped abruptly. It will have a disturbing effect in the long run…interfering in their work again and again will downgrade their work and creativity.”The bench also supported the film makers and directors of the film in depicting the drug menace in Punjab and refuted the claim of the board that it will malign the image of a fertile state. The court said “Punjab is a land where the green revolution took place; its citizens are known for their hard work in the farms. State is also known for its culture and religious backdrop. The nature of depiction in the film is not in any way deemed to be insulting to the citizens of the state. Punjab is a land of freedom fighters and warriors. The film seen in its entirety is not seen to be targeting a particular state or its citizens.”As regards to use of cuss words in the film, the court observed, “The use of such words should be left to its makers…through experience, they will understand whether the use of such content is required to promote the film or not. However, it can also be said that sometimes spoken words have larger impact, every film has to be seen differently.”The court also clarified that the film was not made keeping in mind the elections or favoring any political outfit and thus the suggested cuts as regards use of words MP, MLA is not justified. Reprimanding the board for suggesting cuts which are not based on reality and holding that it were contrary to the rights guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (B) of the Constitution of India; the bench said “Power of the board has to be used consistently and in consonance of the Constitution of India and directions laid down by the Supreme Court. Art must render obscenity trivial so that it does not have effect on society.”The court also expressed displeasure to the producers and board for wasting courts’ precious time. “The parties ought to have realised that the court’s time is precious and in matters like this there is hardly any cause.”The bench also refused to stay its order on a plea made by CBFC counsel Advait Sethna to enable the board to appeal against it in the Supreme Court, saying the filmmakers have already spent a lot on the movie and its promotion and distribution.

Udta Punjab row: Pained by Shatrughan Sinha’s comments defending Nihalani, says Ashok Pandit

Veteran filmmaker Ashok Pandit on Monday said that he feels pained when veteran actors like Shatrughan Sinha speak against the freedom of expression of the film industry.Pandit told ANI, “I am surprised with the statement of Shatrughan Sinha ji where he is backing the CBFC chairman. The whole industry is tensed with the whole episode of ‘Udta Punjab’ and Shatrughan ji said that whatever Nihalani did was correct.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I feel pained that a senior actor like him is making a statement against freedom of expression. It would be better that if Shatruji keeps his personal equations separate,” he added.Actor-turned politician Shatrughan Sinha earlier on Monday defended the CBFC chairman, saying he is only following the guidelines laid down by the government.”The filmmakers, who are attacking him (Nihalani), forget that he has not made the rules. He is only following the guidelines laid down by the government. Don’t shoot the messenger if you don’t like the message,” Sinha told ANI.Defending his ‘close friend’ Pahlaj Nihalani, the Patna Sahib MP said the former is dutifully and beautifully playing his part as the CBFC chairman.”Why there is a huge outcry to sack Pahlaj Nihalani? He is only doing his duty. One should ask the government to change the guidelines,” he said.

‘Let the public decide whether they want to see the movie’: Bombay HC slams CBFC on Udta Punjab row

In sharp observations, the Bombay High Court asked the Censor Board not to be overly-critical so that creative people can grow in the film industry and, at the same time, said makers of “Udta Punjab” should tone down expletives and vulgar scenes as these alone cannot make a film work. A division bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi said it will pass orders in the case on June 13 after it concluded hearing arguments on the petition filed by Phantom Films, producer of “Udta Punjab”, against an order of the revising committee of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) that suggested changes in the film.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The court was critical of the CBFC’s direction to the makers to delete any reference made to Punjab in the film saying “the crux of the film will be lost” and added that people should be given the choice to view what they want.In stinging observations against the Board, the court noted, “If the movie (Udta Punjab) is glorifying use of drugs then ban the entire movie.””The censor board need not be so critical also as we want creative people to survive and grow in the film industry,” the court observed while referring to certain scenes in the film for which the board has suggested changes.Disapproving of the CBFC’s direction to delete and cut references to “Punjab” in the film, the judges said “from every dialogue and scene of the film if reference to Punjab will have to be deleted then the crux of the film will be lost.”If the idea of the maker is to be critical of a place or person then that place or person will have to be shown,” the bench said.Noting that the use of expletives and cuss words does not decide the success of the movie, it said, “Today’s generation is very direct open and more mature. No film runs because of the use of cuss words.””Most movies are failing in the multiplexes because the audience is bored with this over-dose. The content of the movie matters. A creative mind will know the folly of including so much cuss words in the movie. Let them (filmmakers) learn from their mistakes,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.”You (CBFC) have to give people the choice to view what they want. In the house, a person uses the remote to switch on or off the television. Similarly let the public decide whether they want to see the movie or not. Use of expletives will not take the movie anywhere. Today’s generation is not going to be impressed with all this. The content needs to be strong,” the court said. “In this age only those movies having a strong content and script line do well and just using expletives will not work for the movie, and hence the CBFC need not be overly critical.” The court also added that the censor board by passing such an order against the movie was giving it unnecessary weightage and publicity. “Do not give them (movie makers) undue publicity. The movie will fail if the content is bad. They (film maker) must be happy now that all their promotion expenses is saved as they are getting free publicity,” it said.The CBFC counsel Advait Sethna, while justifying the decision of the board’s revising committee asking the makers to cut and delete certain scenes of the movie, remove all expletives and cuss words, reference to the state Punjab and the protagonist urinating and scratching his crotch scene, argued that such scenes are vulgar and extremely deplorable.While suggesting that the scene where a character is shown scratching body part can be deleted, the court said “disclaimers” could be displayed for the cuss words used. “The scene where a character is shown scratching a body part in a graphic manner can be deleted entirely. This need not be shown in any form. Similarly, for all the cuss words used, a disclaimer can be displayed. Is it really necessary for a creative person to rely on expletives? You have to tone it down a bit,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.The petitioner’s counsel Ravi Kadam said they were willing to delete that particular scene from the movie. “We are also ready to display a disclaimer saying neither the movie nor any characters in it nor the makers of the movie support or encourage use of cuss words or expletives and that we are only trying to depict reality,” Kadam said.The court, however, said that if a character in the movie is that of a truck driver or from a rustic background then that particular character will speak accordingly. “It is not necessary that the character of a truck driver will speak his mind in a polished manner. The censor board need not be so critical also as we want creative people to survive and grow in the film industry,” the judge said.Justice Dharmadhikari, however, noted that sometimes to open people’s eyes one has to be direct. “Have you seen how festivals and marriages are celebrated these days. Have you seen how low we have stooped.”Suppose a filmmaker wants to show this futility then he or she will have to show a marriage, characters participating in the marriage or festival. How will someone depict this without showing a marriage or festival. Sometimes to open people’s eyes one has to be direct,” he observed.”If the movie (Udta Punjab) is glorifying use of drugs, then ban the entire movie,” the court told CBFC. The CBFC’s revising committee had suggested a number of changes in the movie, which stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor-Khan and Diljit Dosanjh, and deals with the problem of drug addiction among youth in Punjab.

Udta Punjab, Nihalani, Nehru and the case for less censorship in a democracy

What has escaped attention during the boiling outrage over Udta Punjab is the bizarre state of film censorship in India.

To take recent examples, Quentin Tarantino’s mystery thriller The Hateful Eight (2015) which featured Samuel L Jackson and Kurt Russell, was randomly hacked by Pahlaj Nihalani-led CBFC ostensibly because of its “gory scenes and violence against women.”

Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in a promo for the film Udta Punjab. Sachin Gokhale/FirstpostShahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt in a promo for the film Udta Punjab. Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt at a publicity appearance for the film ‘Udta Punjab’. Image by Sachin Gokhale/Firstpost

Curiously, while some cuss words like “bitch” and “whore” were beeped out, the character Daisy (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) getting punched in the face a dozen times was allowed to pass. Perhaps those weren’t violent enough. ‘Penis’ made it through but allusions like ‘pecker’ and ‘johnson’ didn’t. Details of the censor certificate are here.

If that isn’t bizarre enough, consider that in the same day that The Hateful Eight was released, Oscar contender The Danish Girl came out with zero cuts or blurs even though it depicted a minute-long scene with full frontal nudity.

Tom Hooper’s 2015 British-American romantic drama got Alicia Vikander an Oscar for ‘best performance by an actress in a supporting role’ and it featured copious scenes of nudity, transsexuality and kissing which were allowed to pass with just an ‘A’ certificate. Why? Apparently because Nihalani thought the filmmakers “didn’t go overboard with nudity.”

Remember, he is the same man who clipped James Bond’s kiss by “20 seconds” in Spectre because, to quote him, it was akin to “doing sex in your house with door open. And show to people the way you are doing sex.”

But it will be unfair to pick on Nihalani even though the CBFC chairman has shown a repeated penchant for making himself a butt of ridicule.

The issue, as multiple national award-winning filmmaker Shyam Benegal had pointed out in an interview to Firstpost: “the tragedy of censorship in our country is that often, personal biases and prejudices come in the way of evaluating films for the Indian audience… The gulf between the urban and non-urban, the metropolitan and non-metropolitan audience…the guidelines of the censor board are too rigid to be applied to this diverse audience.”

Benegal, who heads the government-appointed revamp panel of CBFC, watched Abhishek Chaubey-directed Udta Punjab on Wednesday and found it to be a “laudable effort”.

“It’s a well-made film. It brings to attention a very serious problem, that of drug use among young people, which can, if we are not careful, become a rampant problem. It’s a laudable effort… But people are misreading the film,” he said. “They are under the impression that it is anti-Punjab. I don’t think the film is anti-Punjab at all,” he was quoted, as saying by news agency IANS.

This raises a bigger debate over the need, at all, for having censorship in films and Union Information and Broadcasting minister seemed to be hinting at a more liberalised norm and radical changes soon.

Speaking at the CNN News18 Indian of the Year Award show on Thursday, Arun Jaitley said: “You will probably have a system where you will have to have a certificate. The correct word is certification and not censorship. Certification norms will have to be liberal.

The Benegal committee, he said, has suggested some changes. “There is a well documented report by Shyam Benegal, the first part of which has come to me which is under consideration. Over the next few days, we are going to announce some very radical changes in that,” he said.

The idea of censorship in film, books or works or art stems from an inherent hypocrisy in a democracy based on a Constitution that promises liberty of thought and expression.

The problem, of course, started with India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, whose government in its first 14 years amended the Constitution 17 times. The First Amendment — carried out within 18 months — added restrictions on freedom of expression, guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a), to suppress extremist publications for public order.

A Time magazine report of 28 May 1951, reproduced by R Vaidyanathan in Firstpost here, said “Part of the Indian press, said (Nehru), is dirty, indulges in ‘vulgarity, indecency and falsehood.’ To teach it manners, Nehru proposed an amendment to India’s constitution that would impose severe restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.”

Once that Rubicon was crossed, there was no stopping anyone from misusing the law or to use censorship as a political tool as it has been in Udta Punjab‘s case.

If it is spurious, the government can and should ban a packet of mustard oil, else consuming it may make us sick. But a movie isn’t a packet of oil or a bar of soap. It is an idea. And it is decidedly stupid to ban ideas because they cannot be banned in the first place.

It is preposterous to think — as the CBFC has done repeatedly in the past — that by muting or beeping out expletives anyone can be prevented from being exposed to it. Apart from the fact that there is no empirical data to show a correlation between a violent movie and a murder or a sexually explicit movie and a rape, the fact is that Internet has made it absolutely impossible for any idea to be censored.

But there is a larger debate still. Why should we let anyone, including the government, decide what is good or bad for us? This is a personal choice, a guaranteed right (albeit qualified). Why should we let any agency usurp that right?

Apart from the fact that artistic freedom and creative expression are as precious as audience’s right to make informed choices, censorship in a democracy impacts the very basis of a free society — the principle that each and every individual has the right to decide what art or entertainment he or she wants — or does not want — to receive or create.

When a government censors a movie or bans a book or work of art, it sends out a message that if the contents were to be exposed to public, that would either be morally corrupting or result in some grave physical damage. This is an exceedingly problematic position.

There is zero evidence to show that a movie or a work of art induces someone to carry out a murder, rape or other crimes. On morality, if we suppress material based on the actions of unstable people, no films, work of fiction, or art would be safe from censorship. Psychopaths, for instance, justify their acts of violence while citing the Bible.

Studies on the relationship between violence in media (used in its wider sense) and in real life have proved inconclusive. In fact, there is no statistical correlation between the two phenomena. Many human behaviouralists believe, for instance, that violence and sexually explicit art and entertainment have a useful and constructive societal role, serving as a vicarious outlet for individual aggression.

Also, where does one draw the line the sand? What one may find offensive may not be so to me. What gives one the right, then, to prevent me from consuming it? However, while I may not be stopped, one may very well choose not to consume it. So an absence of censorship actually makes for a freer society where we are guided by choice, not compulsion.

Modi has ‘covertly ensured’ that ‘Udta Punjab’ be banned to hide drug problem: Congress

Congress latched on to the comments of the censor board chief in the row over film “Udta Punjab” to allege that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “covertly ensured” that it be banned or “at least neutered” to hide the scale of the drug problem there. “Desperate to ensure that the scale of the malaise is not revealed, Modi has covertly ensured that this movie is banned or at least neutered,” the AICC said in a commentary. It claimed that comments of Pahlaj Nihalani, chief of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), showed the appointments made by the Modi government were of “partisan nature” to drive the BJP-RSS agenda.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”In an act of sycophancy, Nihalani readily admitted in an interview that he was a lackey (a chamcha) of Prime Minister. This … shows the integrity and partisan nature of the appointments of the Modi government.” “Institutions are being robbed of all autonomy, and being turned into agents to drive the BJP-RSS agenda and to help Modi’s electoral prospects,” the AICC said in the commentary posted on its website. Titled “CBFC chief is taking orders from BJP & Akalis, who have, together, ruined Punjab”, the party noted that there is drug menace in Punjab.”This film is a fictionalised account of this problem. Drug abuse is a problem that has devastated lakhs of families in Punjab, and the BJP-SAD government has refused to acknowledge this as a major issue.”It claimed that when token action is taken, it is directed at the addicts rather than drug mafia or peddlers. “When the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi raised this issue in 2012, the Badal government subjected him to ridicule and abuse”.Congress insisted that BJP is a coalition partner of Akali Dal and is “equally culpable” for the “inaction” of the Punjab government. The BJP is scared. It is scared that it has done nothing for the people. To ensure that its own inadequacies are not made public, it is desperate to control all information being disseminated to the public, which is why they have invested heavily on social media and in advertisements,” it said.Besides, it stressed that more than blowing their own trumpet, the BJP is “systematically targeting” everyone who is talking about the many ills in our society.”Currently, it is the controversy surrounding a movie, but under Modi rationalists have been murdered, freedoms of university students been stamped down and artists and writers forced to silence,” it alleged.At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Raj Babbar took a dig at Nihalani for his controversial comments. “It seems that Modi government is a government of chamchas (lackeys),” he remarkedBJP and Akali Dal have accepted defeat in Punjab: Arvind Kejriwal Meanwhile Arvind Kejriwal said: ‘The way ‘Udta Punjab’ is facing censorship; it has become increasingly clear that the BJP, Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi), and Akali Dal have accepted their defeat in Punjab,’ said Kejriwal. ‘Now they are worried about the magnitude of their defeat in Punjab. Whether, like Delhi, they will be reduced to three seats in Punjab also. So, they are worried if such films show truths to the world, then they would be decimated,’ said Kejriwal, the national convenor of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).‘The way they are demanding cuts, and asking to remove words like ‘Punjab.’ I was reading a social media site ‘Jan Gan Man Adhinayak Jay He Bharat Bhagya Vidhata, Punjab Sindhu…..’, will they omit Punjab. If Punjab and Ludhiana words don’t come, film production in this country will stop,’ he added.‘Since there is an RSS-BJP rule in the country, they will decide what people will eat and wear, what they will speak, who will see which movie, which is a very dangerous situation for the country,’ said the Delhi Chief Minister.

Udta Punjab row: Jaitley says ‘radical changes’ in film certification to be announced soon

Amid a raging row over ‘Udta Punjab’, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said movie certification norms have to be liberal and “some very radical changes” will be announced over the next few days.In his first comments on the row sparked by cuts sought by Central Board of Film Certification on Udta Punjab, a film that portrays the problem of drug addiction in the state, he said, “I won’t say its overboard. I don’t know this case because I have not seen this film in question.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Stating that he was “not satisfied” with the existing system of film certification, Jaitley said there are some changes that are about be made.”There is a well documented report by Shyam Benegal, the first part which has come to me which is under consideration. Over the next few days we are going to announce some very radical changes in that,” he said.The Committee, he said, has suggested some changes.”You will probably have a system where you will have to have a certificate. The correct word is certification and not censorship. Certification norms will have to be liberal,” he said speaking at the Indian of the Year Award by CNN TV18 Group.The CBFC has contended that Udta Punjab, a drug-themed crime thriller which is due to be released June 17, needs several cuts on the ground that it casts the state in a bad light by giving an impression that most of them are addicts. The numerous cuts sought sparked a confrontation between Bollywood filmmakers, the censor board and political parties.On the row, Jaitley said, “I think that we are overstating it because at the end of the day you have a Board which takes a view which may be a little conservative view but then at the appeal tribunal with an appeal it can get disposed off. My experience has been almost everything then gets cleared.”Trying to play down the controversy, he said there are people in the system whose attitude may be little more conservative. “But then there are internal checks and balances.””For instance I look at the big picture and the big picture is a Certification Board, we popularly call it Censor Board and you have the appeal tribunal. Now, whenever you have a problem at the level of the first body, people go to the next slab and almost in 99 per cent of the cases, with or without some changes it gets cleared by the next body,” he said.Udta Punjab literally means ‘Flying Punjab’, a reference to the inebriating effects of drugs.

Why do you insist on deleting Punjab from ‘Udta Punjab’, Bombay High Court asks CBFC

The Bombay High Court (HC) on Thursday questioned the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and asked why it is insisting on deleting the Punjab signboard in the film Udta Punjab even as the film body insisted that the 13 changes suggested by its revising committee were justified and proper.A bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and Dr Shalini Phansalkar Joshi was hearing a petition by Phantom Films, producer of Udta Punjab, challenging an order of the Board that suggested changes in the film before its release on June 17.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The court said another film, released earlier titled, Go, Goa, Gone, showed the state of Goa as a place where people go to socialise in parties and also take banned drugs. “If Goa can be shown as a place of drug abuse, what is wrong in Punjab being shown in Udta Punjab,” asked the judge.The CBFC lawyer said: “We are objecting to the reference of Punjab and its people and the language used in the film.” The court will hear the Board’s arguments on Friday.The CBFC also justified the impugned order saying that there was no delay on its part and it was proper and within the framework of the guidelines.However, Ravi Kadam, counsel for Phantom Films, the production company of Anurag Kashyap, said the impugned orderwas issued without any application of mind and was arbitrary.”Punjab is an integral part of the concept and cannot be deleted from the film,” he said.

CBFC should learn from history: ‘Kissa Kursi Ka’ holds lessons for Udta Punjab row

By demanding 89 cuts in Anurag Kashyap’s film ‘Udta Punjab’, Pahlaj Nihalani, the chief of the Central Board of Film Certification of India (CBFC) may have bent over backwards – yet again – to appease the government. But this is not the first time that the CBFC, also referred to as Censor Board has made outrageous demands to gag creativity.

The present generation might not be aware of a Hindi film that was made four decades ago—Kissa Kursi Ka—directed by Amrit Nahata, who was also a three-time MP. In the last 40 years, the incidences related to this film might have gone out of public memory, but it remains the most classic, textbook case of the government of the day blatantly coercing a filmmaker.
Kissa Kursi Ka (A tale of a throne), a spoof on the politics of Indira Gandhi and her younger son Sanjay, was not just banned during the Emergency in 1975, but its negatives were confiscated and destroyed at an auto plant in Gurgaon (which later became Maruti Udyog).

This political satire not only spoofed Sanjay Gandhi but people close to Indira Gandhi’s coterie—like her private secretary RK Dhawan, her guru Dhirendra Brahmachari and Rukhsana Sultana, a close associate of Sanjay Gandhi. After Nahata submitted the film to the Censor Board for certification in 1975, it was sent to a revising committee and finally to the Central government. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting headed by minister Vidya Charan Shukla (popularly called VC) slapped a show-cause notice to Nahata raising 51 objections. As Emergency had been declared, all the prints including the film’s master print were confiscated from the CBFC office and burnt at the auto factory in the presence of Sanjay Gandhi and VC.

The rest is history, as a legal case ran for 11 months. The Shah Commission, established by the Janata government to inquire into excesses committed during the Emergency, held Sanjay Gandhi guilty for burning the prints. Both Sanjay Gandhi and VC were sentenced to a month and two-year jail term imprisonment respectively. Sanjay Gandhi was denied bail. The verdict was later overturned. During the Janata Party government, the public finally got to see the film in 1977.

There are numerous instances of the Censor Board playing the role of ‘’His Master’s Voice.” Besides Kissa Kursi Ka, more than two dozen of Hindi films faced the Censor Board’s axe for various reasons from political pressures to high octane sexual content.

But two prominent and award-winning acclaimed films which were gagged, though for a limited period by the board, for political undertones were Garam Hawa and Aandhi.

Garam Hawa (1973): Directed by MS Sathyu with Balraj Sahni in the lead role, Garam Hawa was held back by the CBFC for eight months as they feared that the movie could instigate communal riots in the country. The movie showed the agony of a Muslim family during the partition of India. However, the film was highly acclaimed, achieved success and won prestigious awards.

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshotImage courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Aandhi (1975): Directed by Gulzar and based on the novel by Kamleshwar, Aandhi was a political movie allegedly based on the life of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her relationship with her estranged husband. It was banned when Indira Gandhi was in power. The film showed the main lead Aarti Devi portrayed by Suchitra Sen smoking and drinking. But, in reality only the look of Aarti Devi was inspired by the politician Tarkeshwari Sinha and Indira Gandhi. The movie was banned after 20 weeks of its release as Emergency was declared. Later, during the Janata Pary-rule, it was again released and aired on Doordarshan.

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshotImage courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshot

The other lesser known yet appreciated ones were:

Amu (2005): Directed by Shonali Bose, with Konkona Sen Sharma and Brinda Karat in lead roles, this movie revolves around the 1984 riots where thousands of Sikhs were massacred. The movie faced the wrath of the Censor Board and it was cleared only after making six “politically motivated” cuts and with an “A” certificate.

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshotImage courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Parzania (2007): Directed by Rahul Dholakia and David N Donihue, the movie has the backdrop of communal riots in Gujarat. Though the film had an all-India release, it was banned in Gujarat. It was only after an initiative by civil rights group ANHAD that it was shown in some parts of Gujarat.

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshotImage courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Inshallah, Football (2010): A documentary film by Ashvin Kumar was about an aspiring footballer who was denied the right to travel abroad on the pretext that father was a militant in the 1990s. The film faced difficulties in getting the necessary censor certificate due to its highly sensitive and political content related to Jammu & Kashmir.

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshotImage courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Image courtesy: Youtube screenshot

Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court on Thursday has pulled up the CBFC over the controversy surrounding ‘Údta Punjab’. The Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh has declared that it would release the uncensored copies of the film at Majitha in Punjab on 17 June.

Will Censor Board take lessons from past?

Despite succumbing under government pressure, the then Censor Board could not prevent Kissa Kursi Ka from becoming a powerful tool for the Janata Party in destroying the Indira Gandhi-led Congress in the 1977 Lok Sabha polls. The film created a strong controversy and built a negative perception amongst the minds of voters against Indira Gandhi-led government.
Will CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani take some lessons from the act of his predecessor’s mistake?

Respect Pahlaj Nihalani, rename the film ‘Udta Land of Five Rivers’

This is a lopsided debate. Freedom of speech and expression is not a one-way street. Everybody has rights and freedoms, so does Pahlaj Nihalani, our Sanskari Censor Board chief who has now kicked up a big storm in Bollywood because Udta Punjab can’t pass muster, his muster. Let’s not get cross with him, let’s not swear at him, we know for sure that’s not going to get us far with him. So, let’s try to understand him. Look at things from his point of view. Maybe if we respect his rights he’ll respect ours. Here’s a list of eight rights of Nihalani we must protect. Feel free to add to this list. The more we understand him, the faster we do it, the better for Bollywood.Pahlaj-2Pahlaj-2

1) Right to cut: Pretty self-explanatory, although whether or not this includes giving people a quick haircut has yet to be decided.

2) Right to be offended: It doesn’t matter if the rest of the nation finds something funny, moving or thought-provoking (God forbid). If Nihalani doesn’t like it, it’s gone.

3) Right to be sanskari: So what if it’s a film about a British man working for a South African company in Venezuela, he better not be seen doing things that go against Indian culture.

4) Right to not hear gaalis: Seriously, you need us to explain this? What the @#$K is wrong with you?

5) Right to euphemism: Nihalani is not Arnab Goswami, he doesn’t like things ‘direct’. So what’s the big deal? Why can’t Anurag Kashyap be a little more accommodative? Like why can’t he rename the film Udta Land of Five Rivers?

6) Right to logical thinking: Udta Punjab! Does that sound like a film about Punjab’s drug problem or its rapid economic growth? And you think Nihalani is illogical?

7) Right to improve his grades: Nihalani made “B” grade movies and is now granting “A” grade to movies he doesn’t understand. Net-net he’s improved, right?

8) Right to bite the hand that feeds him: He was brought out of oblivion by this government and his job is make to them look good. But each time he opens his mouth and we can’t make up our minds on who’s looking sillier, he or his masters, isn’t that a matter between them? What’s your problem?

‘Mischievous’ AAP attempting to boost its chances through ‘Udta Punjab’: Subramanian Swamy

Questioning the release timing of Shahid Kapoor-starrer ‘Udta Punjab’, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy on Thursday alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was making mischievous attempts to boost its chances in next year’s state assembly polls courtesy the drug abuse highlighted in the flick.Swamy’s remark came a day after Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) chief Pahlaj Nihalani alleged that the movie’s co-producer Anurag Kashyap has taken money from Arvind Kejriwal-led party to show Punjab in bad light.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Swamy told ANI the timing of this movie is wrong because it really makes out that the Punjab Government is responsible for drug abuse in the state.”Nobody has doubts that drug is a big problem. Who says it started with Akalis? It started with the Congress. This appears to be a mischievous attempt to further the cause of the AAP. And with the AAP defending itself, that only confirms itself,” Swamy said.The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP further said there is nothing wrong if the movie is released after the Punjab elections are over.Asserting that the 2017 Punjab elections would be fought on the grounds of the rampant drug abuse in the state, the AAP had yesterday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having the CBFC chief in his pocket and using him as a pawn to further his chances in the polls by playing politics over ‘Udta Punjab’.”It is our humble request to Modi ji, Jaitley ji and Badal ji that after letting Punjab suffer for 10 years under the influence of drugs, they should stop playing politics with ‘Udta Punjab’. Nihalani is launching a tirade of charges on an innocent producer without any proof and he wants him to apologise,” AAP leader Ashish Khetan told the media.AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had earlier held the NDA regime responsible for 89 cuts in ‘Udta Punjab’.”#UdtaPunjabCensored What else cud one expect in Modi regime?’ he tweeted.Kejriwal also accused Nihalani of censoring the film on the ruling BJP’s directions.”Pahlaj Nihalani’s statement makes it amply clear that he has stopped the film on BJP’s instructions,” he added.Defending the decision to make a whopping 89 cuts from ‘Udta Punjab’, Nihalani had earlier asserted that he had made the same keeping the law and order situation of the state in mind and accused co producer Anurag Kashyap of trying to take mileage from the entire controversy to promote his film.Meanwhile, the Bombay High Court will today resume the hearing on the petition filed by Phantom Films – one of the producers of the movie.Co-produced by Phantom Films and Balaji Motion Pictures, ‘Udta Punjab?, a highly talked about movie that is being keenly anticipated by a large section of youth is based on substance abuse in Punjab.The movie also starring Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Punjabi singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh was slated to release on June 17.

Udta Punjab makers move Bombay HC, hearing to be held on Thursday

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court will hear on Thursday a petition filed by Phantom Films, the co-producers of the drug-themed upcoming Bollywood movie ‘Udta Punjab’.

Phantom Films moved the court on Wednesday morning, seeking a copy of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Revising Committee order suggesting changes to the film set for a 17 June release.

However, the Revising Committee’s order was received in the afternoon, following which the petitioner requested the court for time to study the order dated 6 June and make amendments to the petition.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

A division bench of Justice S.C. Dharmadhikari and Justice Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi allowed the plea and posted the matter for hearing on Thursday.

The Revising Committee’s order suggested 13 changes, besides deletion of references to Punjab as it was allegedly not in conformity with the Cinematograph Act.

The producers said they will study the order before deciding whether to challenge it or not.

The judges also directed the CBFC to place its records pertaining to the case before the court on Thursday.

Directed by Abhishek Chaubey, the film stars Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor-Khan and Diljit Dosanjh and deals with the drug menace in Punjab

‘Udta Punjab’ controversy: BJP denies govt role in Censor row, rejects AAP’s charge

New Delhi: Rejecting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal‘s charge that the Censor Board has stopped the release of film Udta Punjab at its behest, BJP on Wednesday said AAP survives by creating such controversies and claimed that Punjab has no drug problem, an issue the movie deals with.

AFP

AFP

“I completely reject it (charge) that the government has any role or intervened to stop its release. AAP survives on controversies. It creates controversies for political purpose,” Union Minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said at a party briefing.

Asked about the Central Board of Film Certification’s decision to withhold the film’s release unless certain scenes are cut, he parried the issue saying there must be norms and guidelines as per which it would censor a movie.

Asked whether he believed that Punjab suffered from drug problem, Rudy said, “I don’t think there is any problem.”

He said the Akali Dal-BJP government in the state was doing an “excellent work”.

He also accused AAP of having “double-standards” and referred to its stand on screening of Buddha in a Traffic Jam whose maker Vivek Agnihotri is perceived to be close to BJP.

Rudy said AAP’s spokespersons kept “quiet” when screening of the film was interrupted and stopped due to protests by student groups in Jadavpur University.

“(Censor Board chief) Pahlaj Nihlani’s statement makes it amply clear that he has stopped the film on BJP’s instructions,” Kejriwal tweeted earlier in the day.

The Censor Board’s objections to the Shahid Kapoor-Kareena Kapoor starrer movie have stirred a political row.

Punjab is going to Assembly polls early next year and AAP, which has emerged as a strong player in the state, has made drug abuse a big issue and accused the Akali leadership of promoting the illicit drug trade.

Cut Censor Board’s powers to block films: Panel headed by Shyam Benegal

A committee headed by eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal has recommended cutting the powers of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to censor scenes or sequences of any film. It said the role of the board should only be restricted to certifying films for audience groups based on their age and maturity.The committee said the CBFC should refuse certification only when a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Clause (1) of section 5(B) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, states,”A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence.”The report stated a film can be sent to a revising committee for examination once again, on account of alleged violation of the section of the Act. It also said that certification can be refused when its ‘content crosses the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification.’The Benegal panel has also recommended increasing the number of categories, including breaking the UA Category into UA12+ & UA15+. It also recommended dividing the Adult (A) category into A and AC (Adult with Caution) categories.Talking to dna, Benegal said, “We are against the CBFC’s use of scissors to cut scenes or sequences from a film. It should only certify films in categories and we have also recommended increasing the number of categories.””AC category films, mostly those with explicit sex scenes or gory violence scenes, will have restricted releases. They may not be shown in multiplexes and may be shown only post 11pm,” Benegal said.He added, “If the ministry accepts the recommendations, the Cinematograph Act, 1952, may see a few amendments.”For instance, just increasing the number of categories of films will require amendment of section 4 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.In 2013, Justice Mukul Mudgal, retired Chief Justice of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana — has proposed a model Cinematograph Bill, in his panel’s report on governing cinema to the I&B ministry.The recommendations of his panel, including the draft cinematograph bill, are yet to be implemented by the I&B ministry.In its recommendations, the committee said the applicant submitted a film to the CBFC must specify the category of certification being sought and the target audience.The committee has recommended that the Board, including Chairman, should only play the role of a ‘guiding mechanism’ for the CBFC, and not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of certification of films.It further stated that the total composition of the Board should not be more than nine members and one chairman.Regarding the Regional Advisory Panel, the committee has stated that all nine regions will have advisory panels comprising people who are acquainted with the languages being certified by that regional office.The report stated that members recommended by the National Film Development Corporation to the Central Government, will account for 25% of the membership. Members of the general public recommended by the FFSI (Federation of Film Societies of India), members recommended by the National Council for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and National Commission of Women (NCW), and representatives of the local film industry, as recommended by FFI (Film Federation of India) will comprise 25% each of the membership. Women must have 50% representation on each panel, it said.The committee sought time till June 20 to give recommendations on the certification of films related to clearances to be obtained from the Animal Welfare Board under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act; and depiction of smoking in films wherein films are required to show a disclaimer in every scene that involves smoking, as per a directive from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.The committee set up in January 1 this year submitted its recommendations to information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday. Other members of the committee included actor Kamal Hassan, filmmakers Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra and Goutam Ghose, advertising guru Piyush Pandey, film journalist Bhawana Somaaya, National Film Development Corporation managing director Nina Lath Gupta and K Sanjay Murthy, joint secretary (films) in the I&B ministry.

Documentary on Narendra Modi-Arvind Kejriwal clash in Varanasi fails to get FCAT certification

The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has upheld the decision of the Examining Committee (EC) of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), to deny certification for The Battle Of Banaras.The documentary directed by Kamal Swaroop chronicles Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s candidature for the Lok Sabha from the Varanasi constituency where he fought the elections against Arvind Kejriwal. The FCAT’s decision now leaves the docu’s makers with no other recourse but to approach the courts.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In its notification, refusing certification for The Battle Of Banaras, the FCAT states, “After having viewed the film, we are of the opinion that the CBFC was justified in refusing to grant certification for the reasons that the theme of the film was full of hate/inflammatory speeches given by all the political parties. It tries to divide people on caste and communal lines and derogatory remarks have been made against individuals. The release of the film may cause not only communal disharmony but also disharmony amongst the members of different castes and communities… The appeal is accordingly dismissed.”

CBFC likely to certify films online by March 2017

The online film certification process in the country will be made operational by March next year, sources from the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry said.”We recently had a meeting in this regard and have also invited bids for the software to be used for tracking the status of the films,” said a senior I&B official.The official said while the rudimentary set up is likely to be ready in the next six months, the system should be fully operational by March 2017.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Minister of state for I&B Rajyavardhan Rathore had announced about the measure last year at the IFFI in Goa and had said the online film certification process will protect the rights of filmmakers.”Once the system becomes online, there will be minimum human interference and hence there will be more transparency. The producer will have to come just once for submission of the film to the CBFC,” the official said.”The status of the film can be tracked online and the software will generate the date for its screening,” the official said, adding that the producer would be alerted about the date through a text message.However, the new online film certification system will be operational under the existing Cinematograph Act, 1952. The I&B ministry has recently appointed a committee headed by veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal to suggest the revamp of CBFC.One of the aspects that the committee is looking at is to make the board a certification agency based based on rating films under different categories and doing away with its power of censoring content from the films.Speaking to dna about the online certification process, Benegal said the CBFC will have to carry on with its regular functions, including making film certification online, even as the committee would come up with suggestions on its operations. The committee was to submit its report this month end, but has sought an extension from the I&B ministry.A senior I&B official said, “Even for exclusively rating system, the online certification process for CBFC would still be equally relevant.”Veteran filmmakers lauded the move, but said censorship of films remains their chief concern.Filmmaker Saeed Mirza said, “Certifying films online will make the process easier for us, but our main concern censorship. Every film should be cleared with different ratings, but none should be censored by CBFC.”

Delhi HC paves way for screening of documentary on Kashmir violence

The Delhi High Court on Monday paved the way for the screening of a documentary on the victims of violence in the Kashmir Valley without any cut, saying the film does not contain any objectionable material and deserved issuance of a ‘U’ certificate for public viewing.However, a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath noted that so far as insertion of a disclaimer was concerned, Pankaj Butalia, producer-director of documentary “Textures of Loss”, has already agreed to do it.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The bench concurred with the conclusion of a single judge bench which had directed the Censor Board to issue a certificate for public screening without any cut. “It may be true that the issue of violence in Kashmir is a sensitive topic. However, we do not find any objectionable material in the film in question,” the bench said.”We, therefore, entirely agree with the conclusion of the single judge that the film in question shall be issued ‘U’ certificate without deletions/excisions ordered by appellate tribunal and the order under appeal to the said extent warrants no interference.”So far as the insertion of the disclaimer is concerned, as already mentioned above, the respondent No.1 (Butalia)/writ petitioner has agreed to insert the same,” the bench said. The order came on a petition filed by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting against May 2015 order of single judge which had set aside the decisions of CBFC and film certification appellate tribunal while holding that a ‘U’ certificate be issued to the film without any deletions.Upholding the single judge order, the bench observed that the documentary was of approximately 61 minutes and stated to be based on case studies of the people who were affected by the long-drawn violence in the Kashmir Valley.”The writ petitioner has made an attempt to portray the life of the people in the valley of Kashmir, who were affected by long-term violence, by interviewing the family members of some of the victims of violence,” the bench noted.”The persons who were interviewed had merely narrated their experiences and the loss suffered by them on account of the conflict between the militants and security forces/police. The statements of the persons in the interview were their personal views and the same can neither have any demoralising effect on the security forces nor can they be termed as anti-national,” it said.

I&B Minister Arun Jaitley meets Shyam Benegal; calls for contemporary interpretation of guildelines

The staffing pattern of CBFC would also be looked into in an effort to recommend a framework which would provide transparent, user friendly services.

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