By Anil Nagrath

Finally freedom of expression has won in this country and the attempts of the Sanskari Chairman of CBFC to impose his will on the creativity of a filmmaker, who wants to expose reality as it exists, have been thwarted by the temples of democracy, the Courts of Law. I have been screaming hoarse about the industry taking a stand on the totally dictatorial stand taken by the CBFC in the name of guidelines like the cuss words list and unnecessary deletions and interference in the creative freedom of the filmmaker. A filmmaker cannot be expected to make documentaries praising the Government as he is responsible for holding a mirror to society so that prevalent ills can be removed. The CBFC seems to be under the mistaken notion that given the vagueness and all-encompassing nature of the guidelines under the 1952 Act, they can ban and ask for any changes to be made in the film. This is because at the time of certification, the producer is normally neck deep in debt and not accepting the diktat of C means delay of months in the certification, which he can ill-afford. Hence most filmmakers submit to the unreasonable and illegal demands of the CBFC who have no right to ban or cut anything as confirmed by the Bombay High Court judgement in Udta Punjab case. The judgement clearly and specifically states that CBFC job is to certify and not to influence or pre-judge the content of a film because the audience is the final judge. Hence as long as the audiences are informed about what they are going to see by way of appropriate certificate, nobody has any right to control what they get to see. This is because if the audience doesn’t want it, the film is rejected outright and would go unnoticed, which probably would have happened to Udta Punjab also if it had been certified without controversy and intervention of courts.
I had the pleasure of seeing Udta Punjab this morning with around 70 percent audience, 60 percent of which were females and majority in the age group of 18-40, with several senior citizens also. The film I found to be a real eye-opener because though one is aware about the drug menace and since Dev Anand’s Hare Ram Hare Krishna, hundreds of films have been made on the menace being created by drugs in our social fabric, this is the first time that the underbelly and modus operandi of the drug dealers has been shown openly and not surprisingly everything happens with the connivance of the law, the politicians and the acceptance of people at large which is the reality od life.To say that this problem is connected to Punjab only, would be really stupid because what the film reflects, is happening all over the place and the drug menace is growing by leaps and bounds with the active support of those in power, who are only interested in the moolah that they earn and give a damn for the damage being caused to future generations of the country.

The attempt by the CBFC to ruin this glorious effort of the filmmaker, to bring forth why something needs to be done immediately to control the ever-growing demand for drugs, as well as making everyone aware of the ill-effects of taking drugs, is not understandable. As a matter of fact, the Government is duty-bound to make such films, which reflect the true consequences of taking drugs and why youth should stay away from them. Not only the Government is not prepared to do its work, it has used the CBFC to ban the film and torturing the producer to the extent that he had to spend money like water on legal expenses to approach and get relief from the Bombay High Court. Hats off to this gutsy filmmaker, who had the courage of his convictions and who has joined the illustrious list of filmmakers who have opposed the CBFC in court and won.
This assumes all the more importance when the CBFC is being ruled as a one-man corporation, whose Chairman proudly declares on national television that he is a dictator and who even after the court order, made the filmmaker wait till after office hours for the certificate to be delivered. In short, he did everything to sabotage the release of the film and it is rumoured that the CBFC has a hand in the movie being pirated 48 hours before its release.

Chairman proudly declares on national television that he is a dictator and who even after the court order, made the filmmaker wait till after office hours for the certificate to be delivered. In short, he did everything to sabotage the release of the film and it is rumoured that the CBFC has a hand in the movie being pirated 48 hours before its release.

I have watched Udta Punjab and besides a wonderful depiction of its story seeped in drugs, which normally becomes a very dull and staid affair, has been treated in the form of a realistic thriller. You will never know what’s going to come next and what comes is sometimes a surprise and sometimes a big shock. I was not able to understand at all as to what was the CBFC’s problem in clearing the film and it was apparently a political move to ensure that Punjab Government is not blamed by the people, who watch the film.

I think it is about time that CBFC should be made ‘Udta CBFC’ because such outdated, conservative and dictatorial behaviour is unacceptable in a democracy and like Hollywood, the Indian film industry should be given the power of self-certification. It has been proved time and again that if this power remains with the Government, it will continue to be misused and the only way to end this menace is to take it away from the Government. When content on the newspapers, television, internet and every other media and format, have self censorship, what gives the government the right to control what the ticket-paying audience is going to see. More particularly if it is for adults, because an adult in India can vote out the Government and hence cannot be considered to be an imbecile, who has to have his entertainment cut and dried by some Sanskari appointees of the Government who have their own agendas and commitments to fulfil.

The Government has been going all out saying that the Shyam Benegal committee report is the panacea of all ills and I surely hope that he comes up with something which protects the freedom of expression because very frankly what we know of the report is not very pleasing, because he seems to have recommended that Adult Content films should only be screened after 11 p.m, in cinemas specified for such screenings, which should not be near any residential complex. Multiplexes which are the main cash generators of the industry have been kept out and such adult content cannot be screened there, which is something really shocking because it is like allowing something and then putting restrictions so that it cannot be seen.

The basic problem with the CBFC is government control and the guidelines etc which need to be scrapped with immediate effect, because each film has its own sensitivity and story to tell, which cannot be subjected to standard terms and conditions because unlike office uniform each film is different from the other. In conclusion, hail Udta Punjab and pray for Udta CBFC.


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