In midst of social uproar against controversial statements which were alleged to be hurtful to religious sentiments, the Central Board of Film Certification had stood with its decision to give clearance to the movie “pk”. Leela Sampson, who was until recently the chairman of CBFC, spoke in favour of “creative endeavour” of the film makers, standing by CBFC’s prior decision.
The dust had just settled on the “pk” case when a green signal to “Messenger of God” by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) created problems. It wasn’t the public this time; it was the CBFC Chairman herself. She has alleged corruption and bribery on the part of the government to get a clearance for this movie. As a matter of fact, CBFC had not given a green signal to MSG, claiming that it promoted superstition. The CBFC objected to the fact that he is playing himself in the movie, and had he stopped at acting as a mere superhero, it would have been fine; but for a Godman to play himself in the movie, that too a Godman with millions of followers, was unacceptable to the Censor Board. In fact, there are allegations that the Dera Sacha Sauda Chief wants to portray himself as a Sikh Guru. Amidst such claims, the Dera Chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan, denies these allegations, saying that he has performed mere stunts in the movie, and there is no involvement or display of superpowers.
Are these movies legitimate enough to fall in the gambit of tools used by these godmen to increase their following? Are they an extension of their seemingly saintly sermons? Is the CBFC right in denying clearance to such movies? Is the country’s film certification structure subject to “coercion and corruption?”
Indeed, it was surprising to watch the trailer of a movie starring a Godman, who is playing himself in the movie. Even more surprising was listening to his music album, as songs like “Love Charger” were unexpected from a Godman. Maybe such movies are merely ways of reaching out to more people. As far as the FCAT is concerned, it is the tribunal which decides the fates of the movies which apply to it, on matter such as being denied a certificate by the CBFC. This time, the FCAT cited that there is nothing wrong in MSG to warrant CBFC denying it a certificate. Some people claim that the Censor Board is a quasi-judicial body, and it should not create a furore over the FCAT verdict. What is left to analyse is whether the FCAT is a victim of corruption and coercion. One wonders why Leela Samson didn’t point such an anomaly out before the MSG case, because there is a high probability that this wouldn’t have been the first instance of corruption and political intervention in the FCAT.
All said, if indeed the film certification regime is subject to intervention in India, then this matter needs to be taken seriously. In a country where the audience takes movies and their stories more seriously than intended, the censor board and the film certification tribunal must be free in their decisions and opinions, and must act as counter balances for one another. Godman or no Godman, this is serious business.
Poorva is a first year Economics student at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi. She keeps herself abreast of all the current affairs and holds a firm opinion about everything happening around her. She deems all forms of expression, be it acting, painting or writing, as a gift to the mankind. She is also involved in social service through two of her college societies, Enactus and NSS. She can be contacted at :firstname.lastname@example.org“
Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist