PM must sack Smriti Irani and Prasoon Joshi for ‘managing’ CBFC certification of Padmavat, a film that violates key CBFC guidelines  


Smriti Irani and Prasoon Joshi prima-facie indulged in sleaze by granting UA certificate to a film with adult content thus helping the film’s producers and distributors make windfall profits.



I also pray to the Chief Justice of India to take suo-moto cognizance of this article and stay the release of the film and cancel its UA certification. He should do it particularly in view of the fact that the Stay Order of the Supreme Court bench headed by him regarding the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 36/2018 challenging  the ban on the exhibition of Padmavat by various state governments, was based wholly on the presumption that the concerned authority, namely the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), must have taken into account its guidelines as clearly enunciated in the order itself.  For that presumption to be valid, the CBFC certification process must be transparent and without bias. And those who are part of the CBFC Examining Panel should have competence to evaluate a film on the parameters set by those guidelines.


In an earlier article ( I had mentioned that the film, then titled Padmavati now rechristened as Padmavat, was uncertifiable as per the Guidelines of CBFC. However, it was finally certified through backroom maneuvering by the Minister of Information & Broadcasting Smriti Irani and the Chairman of CBFC Prasoon Joshi.


Now, read the following very carefully.


1. Undue favors were done to the film’s producers in violation of the CBFC Guidelines [Cinematograph Act Section 5B (2)] as enunciated on its web site and also the rules as stated in the 9th May 2008 notification {G.S.R. 381(E)} of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting  ‘in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 8 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 (37 of 1952) and in supersession of the Cinematograph (Censorship) Rules 1958’.


2. These favors were apparently done for quid pro quo considerations.


3. The CBFC guidelines clearly enunciate in the beginning para itself that as ‘the Cinematograph Act lays down that a film shall not be certified if any part of it is against the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite commission of any offence’.


4. Evidently the film was likely to create ‘public disorder’ and ‘incite commission of offence’ as ever since the film was announced the Hindu community in general, and the Rajputs in particular, were constantly protesting against it for wrong depiction and misrepresentation of one of the most revered icons of Hindu pantheon and folklore, namely Maharani Padmavati of Chittor.


5. The film ‘depraves the morality of the audience’ as its male protagonist and the central character Allauddin Khilji, a depraved debauch and murderer and stalker, has best of the scenes and dialogues and clap-worthy moments that subliminally affect the audience and make him a likeable instead of a loathsome cringe-worthy character.


6. The film ‘glorifies violence’ with various graphic shots and scenes of severed heads and a headless human torso in a sword fight. In one shot the protagonist is shown riding triumphantly on a horse holding a spear with a severed head on its tip. This is a serious violation of CBFC guideline that says ‘pointless or avoidable scenes of violence, cruelty and horror, scenes of violence primarily intended to provide entertainment and such scenes as may have the effect of de-sensitizing or de-humanizing people are not shown.’


7. The protagonist of the film namely Allauddin Khilji, who dominates the film from beginning to end, is a depraved bloodthirsty and lustful villain who considers women as objects to satisfy his lust and sense of power and treats them in the most demeaning dehumanizing ways. In one particular scene a Hindu princess is shown as being subjected to most humiliating and dehumanizing treatment by the film’s protagonist. This clearly violates the guidelines that say ‘scenes degrading or denigrating women in any manner’ and ‘visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented’.


8. The fact must be noted that the protagonist has no regrets for his dark inhuman and morally depraved deeds as he repeatedly says that ‘all is valid in love and war’. He expresses no regret even after hundreds of women led by queen Padmavati commit the supreme sacrifice of Jauhar to save their honor. This clearly offends human sensibilities.


9. The film defames and is contemptuous of Hindus and Rajputs as it makes them look stupid. The Rajput king indulges in ceremonies and celebrations and amorous play with the queen while the armies of the enemy lay seize around his fort.


10. The film in various respects and aspects, from its subject, characterizations, and audio-visual content, and over all impact under no circumstances should have been granted any other than ‘A’ (Adult) certificate, restricting it to viewing by ‘Adult’ audiences alone and thus not fit to be released through cable and satellite networks. However, inexplicably it was granted a UA certificate apparently as a special favor to ensure that its producers make windfall profits.


Now let us look at the circumstances under which the film was certified.


While talking at a CII event hosted by Karan Johar, an Executive Committee Member of the Film Producers’ Guild, Smriti Irani assured the filmmaker, as reported by the PTI and published by the Indian Express dated 7th October 2017, that the film ‘Padmavati’ will be released without any hitch and she is there to help the fraternity, which is her own. This was being said when we didn’t even know that the film had been examined or certified by CBFC. On what basis did she give such an assurance? Either the film was already certified by then or else Irani was trying to influence the certification process and vitiate it. The same report also quoted her as saying that the govt. looked at CBFC as a facilitator. Facilitator for what?   


1. This raises the question if ‘Padmavati’ was certified prior to 7th October 2017 and if not why was the Minister talking about its unfettered release at this time?


2. The protest over the film was gaining momentum as the filmmaker had already announced the release date of the film as 1st December 2017.



3. CBFC is also supposed to approve the posters, trailers and publicity material of the film. Did the CBFC approve the posters and trailers of the film that were already released is another question that needs to be asked. If the posters and trailers were not approved how were they being exhibited in cinema halls? And if the process was truncated, why and how was it truncated? Were the film’s producers and director in touch with CBFC and the Minister directly or through intermediaries and were trying to influence the certification process? This must be investigated as well.



4. On 20th November 2017 Shahid Kapoor, one of the actors of Padmavati, was a special invitee at the inaugural ceremony of the 48th International Film Festival of India, Goa (IFFI, Goa) and he pitched his film to the invitees there. CBFC Chairman Prasoon Joshi was also present during the inaugural session. Under what circumstances was Shahid invited to Goa? Was there a quid pro quo involved? The 48th IFFI inaugural and closing ceremonies were unusually star-studded. All the top stars who paid no heed to earlier editions of the festival, were lined up. I don’t think they were willing participants. It was obvious that Irani, in order to impress her boss, was pulling all strings her powerful position granted her. Did she get help from Sanjay Leela Bhansali? Most likely. Each one of the top stars from Shahrukh Khan to Big B have worked with him in the past. His words do matter.


5. Just a few days before IFFI inauguration on 18th November 2017, Rajat Sharma and Arnab Goswami watched a special preview of the film organized by the filmmaker and sang paeans to it, giving it a clean chit, called it an ode to Rajput valour. It was part of a well-orchestrated campaign. Everything dovetailed, and followed the script to the T. Prasoon Joshi also faked anger as if this was not expected of the filmmaker.


6. Soon we get to know that the film was actually submitted for certification on 17th November 2017 but the application was rejected on the same day on technical grounds and the producers of the film were asked to apply again. Soon after that there was lull, the storm began to die down but behind the scene maneuvers to certify the film were continuing.


7. Suddenly one fine morning as the year 2018 dawns we hear that some special screening of the film was organized during the period of lull. According to the Hindi daily Amar Ujala’s 1st January 2018 report, 9 eminent people were invited for the screening. Only three of them reported - Arvind Singh Mewad, IGNOU’s Social sciences Prof. Kapil Kumar, and Ms. Chandramani Singh, a historian from the University of Jaipur. According to the report they watched the film and raised 25 to 30 objections and rejected it.



They particularly raised objections about the graphic violence and total misrepresentation of Rajasthani and Rajput culture and even of the distortions of the epic Padmavat. The screening took place in the presence of Prasoon Joshi.  


8. Notwithstanding the objections to the film by an eminent historian, a social scientist, and a member of the erstwhile royal family of Mewad, the CBFC apparently formed an Examining Committee (EC) consisting of Archana Vineet Gore, Kalyani Deshpande, Nutan Jagdish Sagar, Haresh J Wadhwani, and Deepak Ramakant Tandel (Examining Officer). None of the members of this EC had the wherewithal or expertise to examine a period film from various relevant perspectives.


9. It’s learnt that the Chairman Prasoon Joshi himself handpicked the members from the CBFC panel with an apparent intent to ensure that the film is cleared and granted a UA certificate. Please note that the Chairman of CBFC has the authority to nominate certain number of people for the CBFC examining panel and he is in a position to recommned names and have his people there.  


10. The film was certified UA in a big hurry by CBFC with no cuts and with a minor change in the name and a standard disclaimer. In the entire history of CBFC, a film with such graphic violence sequences and dealing with an outright adult subject like ‘Jauhar’ has been given anything less than an ‘A’ certificate. I spoke to many filmmkarrs and asked if their films with similar kind of content as Padmavat would have been given a UA certificate, they replied in the negative.


11. Prasoon Joshi was obviously carrying on a charade. He had reportedly watched the film in a private preview and felt that the film could be released without cuts and with a U certificate. He had also reportedly rebuked a member of the CBFC Advisory Council Arjun Gupta who had written to the Home Minister against Bhansali and his film. Joshi had said that CBFC respected Bhansali as a filmmaker and a person and it did't share the views of Arjun Gupta.


12. And soon after that we learn that the film has been given a UA certificate, and is ready for a 25th January 2018 release, a perfect release date that follows a long weekend.


13. It was obviously a fixed match. The UA certificate and the alacrity with which the film was certified is surprising and shocking. The opinion of the panel of experts was totally disregarded.  Somewhere in the upper echelons of power a decision was made that the film has to be cleared and that too with a UA certificate.


14. We have also learnt that the producers and their representatives of the film were present at the venue of the EC screening and the members of EC interacted with them personally post the film's screening. This is totally unacceptable as per rules.

It’s evident from the above that the CBFC Certification for Padmavat was anything but transparent. It was the product of a vitiated process. It was a stage-managed affair and Minister I&B Smriti Irani and Chairman CBFC Prasoon Joshi were directly and indirectly involved in the clandestine fixing and influencing of the outcome through their utterances and deeds.

They deliberately let the CBFC guidelines be flouted and crossed all limits when they managed to get the film a UA certificate by manipulating the examining process. It can be interpreted that their judgment was clouded as they are part of what’s termed popularly as Bollywood and they forgot the call of their duty blinded by their sense of fraternity. They did personal favors to the producers and director of the film and instead of protecting public interest, as was their duty, chose to serve the interest of their friends for whatever considerations.

I reiterate that our beloved Prime Minister must sack Smriti Irani and Prasoon Joshi and ask CBI to investigate into the matter and prosecute them if they are found guilty of having done undue favors to their cronies as part of some quid pro quo deal.             

@khulkebolo @neelnabh


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