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OPINION

PK Controversy: Does CBFC under Leela Samson nurse an anti-Hindu bias and its decisions are influenced by extraneous factors? 

That’s what various Hindu groups that advocate a ban and boycott of PK have been clamoring. According to them it’s not the first film in which the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) bias came into play.

They allege that in certifying RAMLEELA and SINGHAM RETURNS also the CBFC issued censor certificates in spite of the fact that they obviously violated its well-established guidelines as approved by the I&B Ministry.

The Supreme Court and various other courts looked at these cases and refused to examine them in detail. According to the Hindu groups, these very courts, the CBFC, and various state governments showed far greater alacrity in stopping, restraining, delaying the release and screening of films, and seeking their revision when they found their content to be derogatory to Islam, Christianity, and certain political icons. Kamal Hassan’s film VISHWROOPAM is one of the well-known examples. The film was banned and after the Muslim groups gave a go ahead, it was released after revision.

The CBFC guidelines have 4 main clauses. It’s the Clause 2 that is most important of them all in such cases. It has 21 sub-clauses. Out of them, the following four are directly applicable in the cases of PK, RAM LEELA and SINGHAM RETURNS.

xii)     Visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented
xiii)    Visuals or words which promote communal, obscurantist, anti-scientific and anti-national attitude are not presented
xvii)   Public order is not endangered
xviii)  Visuals or words involving defamation of an individual or a body of individuals, or contempt of court are not presented

Even an independent observer can see it clearly that all the three films have violated these guidelines. However, the Supreme Court refused to look into the matter for some strange reasons. 

In case of PK, Shri Satish Vasantrao Kalyankar, one of the members of the CBFC Advisory Panel that watched the film for approval, pointed it out to the CEO of the CBFC about these violations and requested him in writing on 27th November 2014 that the film is sent to the revising committee. He was asked to shut up and his objections were overruled without any explanation.

He did not sit silently. He wrote to the Information & Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitly on 1st December 2014 pointing out the violations, much before the film’s release. He did not get any response, which should be considered highly unusual. It was not a communication from some fringe element that could be thrown into a dustbin. A CBFC Advisory Committee member was writing to him in his official capacity.

 

According to Kalyankar’s letter he explained his stand to the other members of the Advisory Panel, Mr. Sanjay Jhilani, Ms. Gulshan Begum, and Ms. Shweta Jadhav and a CBFC official Ms. Vijaya Charvak. He wrote to the CEO that the three females tried to pressurize him unduly into clearing the film. Why did they do that?

We already know how the earlier CEO of the CBFC Rakesh Kumar was arrested by the CBI on corruption charges. There are also reports that money plays a key role in getting CBFC certification done. In view of this, the attempts by Ms. Gulshan Begum, Ms. Shweta Jadhav, and Ms. Vijaya Charvak to pressurize Kalyankar should be a matter of grave concern. Why did they do that? Incidentally, the director of the film Rajkumar Hirani was also present during the screening.

The Hindu groups also allege that the CBFC Chairperson and CEO lied about their earlier complaint regarding SINGHAM RETURNS.  In reply to a an RTI query, they said that no complaint was lodged with them against SINGHAM RETURNS, which was not true since a Hindu group had sent a letter to the CBFC Chairperson, complaining about the film. The CBFC office duly acknowledged the receipt of the letter but the reply to the RTI query flatly denies it.

What is the purpose of the CBFC and the censoring process? Should the CBFC not follow its guidelines without fear or favor? If it cannot do that will it not be advisable to diband CBFC itself and give complete freedom to the filmmakers to make films of their choice. Let the people chose what they wish their children to watch or what they wish to watch themselves.  That's what the Supreme Court observed while dismissing the PK case. Let us go by the views of the SC. That will be a fair thing to do. This will forever put an end to controversies and charges of corruption often made against the CBFC and its officials. 

Rajesh Kumar Singh