WHAT MADE TOM CRUISE PICK THE MUMMY 2017?

This is a question asked umpteen times ever since the movie hit theatres, a movie that is not just a reboot of a commercially successful series but also the launch vehicle of Universal’s Dark Universe, an ambitious sub-series by the global entertainment giant to tap into the ever-widening profitability net of comic book super-heroes (and super-villains), supernatural characters and obviously the all-eclipsing monsters.

Well, The Mummy of the previous generation was a bad movie series. It could work commercially because humour was an important part of this storytelling that the world is quite familiar with, palaces, kings, queens, princes, princesses, paramours, conspiracies, killings, tombs, mummies and pryramids.

And the natural inevitability – that how far can you go with a tellingly thin narrative – that any mummy is basically identified with Egypt’s Pyramids and some Egyptian royalty because of the controversial history surrounding them – so, a standalone chapter, or at best two can justify their arrival if they are given some good treatment. Even The Mummy’s previous incarnation had to look for other extensions beyond Egypt to keep the franchise lubricated beyond two but then it chose to suspend the movement beyond one more.

The latest Mummy has come to life after 2008, when the last movie of the series was released. The three previous Mummies were basically horror comedies to say best or if we say conservatively, they were action-comedy flicks which didn’t need star power but the treatment that could pull the viewer to the theatre. They were time-pass flicks running high on computer generated special effects. They didn’t need acting credentials for expressions or starry adrenaline for action sequences.

They simply needed a one point linear narrative that how to keep the viewer engaged for 100 minutes by producing a cocktail of commercial cinematic specs like comedy mixed with horror, special effects, good looking canvases and known mythological monsters. They were meant to entertain somehow. They were never meant to excel.

True, it can be argued that Tom Cruise is an entertainer and excellence in filmmaking is a reserved phenomenon. But he is certainly an actor who cannot, at this stage of his career, be associated with films that are meant to entertain somehow. He is a name. He is a star power. He is among the selected few names who are used to sell films.

So, the big question is, what made Tom Cruise pick The Mummy 2017, a poor reboot that fails to create the effect of its mediocre but commercially successful predecessors, especially when the film has failed to create box office magic? Reports say the film generated only $400 million against its overall budget of $250 million. And critical reception, well its flooded with all kinds of negative witticisms – plain, convoluted, satirical, humorous and even comical.

©SantoshChaubey

Advertisements

NOW ANTI-SUPER HEROES

Anti-heroes have ruled the roost in every cinema. They have been one of the most important tools of parallel, meaningful as well as mainstream commercial cinema and they have been ‘the’ most important theme element of the experimental cinema. They are best used to represent the discontent on social malaise.

The parallel and meaningful cinema like the ones made by Govind Nihalani or Shyam Benegal or many others in our country or like Steven Spielberg’s Oskar Schindler or Mario Puzo’s/Francis Ford Coppola’s Vito Corleone and Michael Corleone. The mainstream commercial cinema does in its trademark ‘masala’ ways like Khalnayak’s Sanjay Dutt or Ram Lakhan’s Anil Kapoor or Deewar’s Amitabh Bachchan or like the main protagonists movies like The Transporter series.

And now it is the turn of the anti-superheroes.

And the reason is – like the anti-heroes, the superheroes provide more options to develop the characters – there are more shades to show including plenty of greys and therefore more (and interesting plot elements).

Since almost of them are American imports (or exports), it is needless to explore or talk about any other cinema.

Suicide Squad is the latest offering in the series of the movies that started sometimes back. These movies have superheroes who are sort of supervillainous in their attitudes.

It all began, we can say with Hancock, as it is the movie that comes to your tongues initially. It introduced to us (on a mass scale) a superhero who had loads of grey shades in his character yet he was the hero because he ended up doing good things, punching and packing up the bad guys. Then there were many X Men movies who had characters with shades of grey who initially did bad things but then ended up doing the Good Samaritan jobs.

More recently, the trend seems to have picked up from Deadpool which did brilliant business. It is again an instalment in X Men series of films. It has a superhero owing his genesis to some scientific experiment gone horrible wrong but an experiment that gives him superhero abilities. He is foul mouthed and lives a life that cares for his personal sphere of life only. And the latest offering in the series is ‘Suicide Squad’.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

MADAARI POWERFULLY CONVEYS WHAT IT WANTS TO CONVEY

Madaari is a powerful film because of the message it conveys – an element that effectively counters flaws that we may discuss in the art of filmmaking here.

And it does so sensitively, touching cords. The film is not just a sensitive portrayal of a father-son relation but is also an apt expression of a common man who is crushed by the system. It is a vengeance story with no personal vendetta. It is as variegated in portrayal as the human thought can be, especially of a man who has lost his everything including the will to live and who wants to avenge his loss at any cost but who, at the same time, is bound by the larger cause of ‘what is right and what ails’ the system.

A vigilante thought process underpins the character developments in the movie – a thought element that we all have in our lifetimes. It is its leitmotif.

The main protagonist in the film loses his son in a flyover collapse which is caused by irregularities and corruption in its construction. The film explains well the internal struggle of a man who fails to accept this loss and chooses to concentrate his anger on the corrupt system that is plaguing the society – that caused the collapse.

A vigilante film is basically about uncommon heroics of someone from among us. The good thing about Madaari is, that though it’s basic premise is far-fetched, it tries to look real – like the reflection of peace and innocent happiness that the main protagonist’s character displays when he finally succeeds in telling to the masses that he has kidnapped the home minister’s son and why he has done so – something that the whole machinery is trying to keep under wraps.

And the film does it with élan. Character development is a high point of this film – every character that is a stakeholder here contributes with heart – the main protagonist, his son, his wife, the captive who also happens to be the son of the home minister, the home minister and his wife, the cop, the corrupt politician and so on.

A home minister who leaves his son in a minimum security school hostel to seek political mileage, a dejected father who abducts that son and roams across many states throughout the movie, a cop who decides not to kill him after knowing his real story and indirectly helps him, a cop who aspires to get the plum posting of some state governor after retirement – unbelievable, unreasonable premises – but then isn’t it not about the most vigilante movies – and, in fact, with all the superhero movies?

Yet we love them – be it ‘The Equalizer’ or the Batman movies of the Superman movies or the Iron Man movies or our very own ‘Krrish’.

It is because of the human psychology – where we all, more or less, at some point of time or regularly – face its brunt – and the main protagonist of the movie is shown taking on such (rogue) VIP elements.

It is because such films give wings to our fantasy that craves (and at times cribs) because of the fundamentally feeble nature of human beings who have been harassed by a corrupt system – something that we all face – and find ourselves forced to compromise.

Madaari portrays that.

MadaariFacebook

©SantoshChaubey

Featured Image Courtesy: Madaari’s Official Facebook page

ONLINE PIRACY: CINEMA GOING IS A SOCIAL HABIT

Going to theatres to watch films is a social habit and by the growing number of films doing business over Rs. 100 Crore, we can say online film piracy has not hurt this habit so badly as is projected.

In fact, the Box Office collection trend has shifted the business threshold for the blockbuster films to a much higher value – Rs. 500 Crore.

A good case in point here is the major Hollywood hits.

Any major Hollywood film that is released in India has its good print already available to download from the internet. In spite of that they do good BO business. The Revenant is a 2015 Hollywood hit that was released in India in February 2016 and in spite of that it earned Rs. 3.5 Crore in its opening weekend, an impressive figure for a Hollywood film in India.

Interstellar, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road were the five most pirated Hollywood films of 2015. Yet they were the major BO blockbusters of the year.

Similarly in 2014, again the most pirated films – The Wolf of Wall Street, Frozen, RoboCop, Gravity and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – were notable global BO earners.

Back in India, the country’s most expensive film till date, Baahubali, that is also credited with having the highest BO collections so far, had seen its ‘good quality’ print pirated online within no time of the theatrical release. Yet the film went on to become a favourite on the ticket windows.

People who enjoy free time with films will always do so in the theatres – and they like to do so in the first week of the release of a film – with family – with children – with friends. For many, cinema going is a social pastime with good picnicking experience. They make plans for it in advance. Cinema going, in fact, is one of the most routine weekend activity in all societies.

According to a Deloitte report, a film in India earns as much as 60% of its total BO collection it the first week of its release. And a good business, increasing BO collection of the major hits and an ever increasing threshold of the revenue minted at the ticket windows support this finding.

Yes, there is always this expectation that the film could have earned much more had it not been pirated online. But filmmakers should see that as an ‘opportunity cost’ that they need to bear because online piracy ensures an unbeatable word of mouth publicity with a global outreach that no marketing machinery can match.

They, in fact, should see it as an added advantage, because practically it is impossible to check and curb online piracy of films. If regulators block 100 sites, thousands more crop-up. And a server making some content available in India may be based in any country that makes it impossible for the law enforcement agencies to proceed in the matter.

Though there is no empirical data, we can say that online piracy with its buzzword around a film helps many to make up their mind about going to a cinema to watch that film.

©SantoshChaubey

ONLINE PIRACY THREATS: CATCH THEM WHERE THEY ARE!

If the DVD business is dying – due to increasing digital distribution, cloud storage and piracy – if the Box Office collection has to remain under the shadow of piracy threats – then why can’t cinema be taken to more and more people – people who see the online access as the preferred reference point for their cinema-watching experience?

Why restrict cinema only to theatres?

Why can’t a movie be released simultaneously in theatres and on the internet?

Why can’t it be made available on cable television’s on-demand services – the day it is released in theatres?

According to a recent Google India report, one in ten online searches on Google is cinema related. Movie junkies on the internet frantically search for downloadable links whenever a new film hits the theatres. The next stage is obviously about sharing the file and in no time the film is all across the internet.

Even China could not prevent images of Wukan protests from going viral on the Internet and therefore in the whole world. Wukan is a Chinese village that was the epicentre of the anti-corruption protests in 2011 and had seen months long police-villagers standoff. Villagers alleged that their land was taken from them by the government officials and they were not paid proper compensation.

Even Russia could not effectively censor political bloggers and activists like Alexei Navalny for writing against Vladimir Putin. The internet is a maze where monitoring content is a tiresome process with no guarantee of results.

If China and Russia cannot stop the internet sites from hosting the material that they do not want, how can we expect the same from filmmakers – even if they have formed specialized agencies for the purpose and regularly hire top ex-cops?

Then why can’t it be used to advantage then? It is better to befriend an adversary whom you know you can never win.

Many people would come forward to pay for downloading a film on their smartphones or computers if they get the chance to have an authentic print with on the same day the film is being released in the theatres. Many would jump to this prospect of getting a original BluRay or HD-DVD quality digital print – as everyone loves a hassle free cinema-watching experience.

When filmmakers cannot stop online piracy, whatever they get by making their films simultaneously available on the internet platforms will only increase your revenue.

©SantoshChaubey

OUR RIGHT TO DOWNLOAD?

Anurag Kashyap didn’t sermonize us on downloading a film from the internet. He didn’t go on explaining how it makes things difficult for the filmmakers on the financial front. He simply requested people to wait till Saturday to download Udta Punjab.

Now there is no data to see the effectiveness of Anurag Kashyap’s appeal has been. But given the row over the film and the talks of its portrayal of Punjab drug problem in a sincere way, as Shyam Benegal said that it was sensitive portrayal of the issue, and the Central Board of Film Certification’s attempts to delay the film or dilute its content, the film needed a good opening, reposing faith in people’s sensitivities on matters that directly affect people. And with Rs. 10 Crore box-office collection on Friday, we can say Udta Punjab got a satisfactory opening – in spite of the spectre of the online leak of the film before its release.

Now that its first Saturday is passé and Udta Punjab has received rave reviews, let’s turn to probably the most important element of Anurag Kashyap’s appeal that he wrote on his Facebook page on June 16 – ‘our right to download’.

Anurag Kashyap wrote – “I also say that no one can stop your right to download a film.”

Anurag is probably the first filmmaker in India who has openly endorsed the phenomenon of film downloading from the internet.

While the small time filmmakers cannot afford to care if the pirated prints of their films are available in the market or on the internet, the big names of the Indian film industry have taken extra precautions, including crackdown on piracy hubs and on websites, before their films hit the theatres.

Film and music industry associations in India have established their own anti-piracy monitoring agencies. They conduct raids on pirates in collaboration with the law enforcement agencies. They usually hire ex-police officers for this purpose. Julio Rebeiro is one of the most decorated police officers who have been associated with the initiative.

And even if Anurag Kashyap has advocated for ‘downloaders’ right to download’ films, Ekta Kapoor, another producer of Udta Punjab, had two sleepless night working with the law enforcement agencies to keep a tab on the download links of the movie.

So, did Anurag Kashyap err or was it a frustrated appeal driven by the realization that once a film gets online, there is no way to estimate how fast and how far it can spread – or was it a sincere appeal given the fact that he used terms like ‘lack of access’ and ‘free internet’. He wrote in his appeal – “Piracy happens because of lack of access and in a world of free internet, I do not have a problem with it.”

What Anurag has done could add to the marketing efforts of the film. The film has been in controversies. And the mass perception is – filmmakers and films were made victims by the establishment in this case – by the CBFC. And people tend to be on the victim’s side.

What Anurag says on ‘downloaders’ right to download a film’ is sort of Coelho-esque. The Brazilian author of the global best-seller ‘The Alchemist’ is a known backer of the pirates, at least of his books. According to an interview given to the Guardian, he has called on “all pirates of the world to unite and pirate everything he has ever written”.

Paulo Coelho writes in his official blog – “The physical sales of my books are growing since my readers post them in P2P sites (peer-to-peer file sharing sites).”

What Coelho gets through piracy of his books? He engages prospective readers first and then try to convert them into faithful readers by requesting them to buy a copy of his book if they liked it online.

We should not compare the two contexts here. A good book serves as a ‘collectible’ in your personal library’. It remains throughout there – physically. A film watching experience in a theatre doesn’t fulfil this need until the Blu-ray or DVD title is released, that usually happens after some months of the theatrical release.

But the point is – the most pirated prints online are not good in quality and if downloaders find it a brilliant creation worth a theatre visit, they would sure make a favourable decision – like going to the theatres.

Online piracy of films – if used as a marketing tool – if we see Anurag Kashyap’s appeal in this context – like Paulo Coelho does with his books – isn’t it then basically about connecting to the readers (or viewers) first?

LEGALITY OF DOWNLOADERS’ RIGHTS

Law says downloading films from the P-2-P sites is illegal. We regularly come across newsy items that this many of torrent websites have been blocked. Even then we know that film downloading is rampant.

It is like adults films in the theatres. It is like pornographic sites on the internet. If there are adult films being screened, they will find their viewers. If there are pornographic websites on the internet, we cannot stop people from visiting them.

Unless we crackdown on the theatres showing adult films. Unless we block the pornographic websites.

Those who believe in values like freedom of expression cannot for that that. Blocking pornography on the internet has divided the nation.

We cannot and we should crackdown on downloaders as long as there are content-sharing websites. If there is film available online for free, people would obviously download it.

CATCH THEM WHERE THEY ARE!

If the DVD business is dying – due to increasing digital distribution, cloud storage and piracy – if the BO collection has to remain under the shadow of piracy threats – then why can’t cinema be taken to more and more people – people who see the online access as the preferred reference point for their cinema-watching experience?

Why restrict cinema only to theatres? Why can’t a movie be released simultaneously in theatres and on the internet? Why can’t it be made available on cable television’s on-demand services?

According to a recent Google India report, one in ten online searches on Google is cinema related. Movie junkies on the internet frantically search for downloadable links whenever a new film hits the theatres. The next stage is obviously about sharing the file and in no time the film is all across the internet.

Even China could not prevent images of Wukan protests from going viral on the Internet and therefore in the whole world. Wukan is a Chinese village that was the epicentre of the anti-corruption protests in 2011 and had seen months long police-villagers standoff. Villagers alleged that their land was taken from them by the government officials and they were not paid proper compensation.

Even Russia could not effectively censor political bloggers and activists like Alexei Navalny for writing against Vladimir Putin. The internet is a maze where monitoring content is a tiresome process with no guarantee of results.

If China and Russia cannot stop the internet sites from hosting the material that they do not want, how can we expect the same from filmmakers?

That may be the realization behind what Anurag Kashyap has written.

Then why can’t it be used to advantage then? It is better to befriend an adversary whom you know you can never win.

Many people would come forward to pay for downloading a film on their smartphones or computers if they an authentic print on the same day the film is being released in the theatres. And when you cannot stop online piracy, whatever you get by making your film simultaneously available on the internet platforms will only increase your revenue.

ALSO, WATCHING FILMS IN THEATRES IS A SOCIAL HABIT

Going to the theatres to watch films is a social habit and by the growing number of films doing business over Rs. 100 Crore, we can say online film piracy has not hurt this habit so badly as is projected. In fact, the BO collection trend has shifted the business threshold for blockbuster films to Rs. 500 Crore.

A good case in point here is the major Hollywood hits. Any major Hollywood film that is released in India has its good print already available to download from the internet. In spite of that they do good BO business. The Revenant is 2015 Hollywood hit that was released in India in February 2016 and in spite of that it earned Rs. 3.5 Crore in its opening weekend, an impressive figure for a Hollywood film in India.

People who enjoy free time with films will always do so in the theatres – and they like to do so in the first week of the release of a film. According to a Deloitte report, a film in India earns as much as 60% of its total BO collection it the first week of its release.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

WHY ANURAG KASHYAP’S APPEAL IS IMPORTANT?

Anurag Kashyap made an impassioned appeal in his Facebook post yesterday – about unlawfully downloading films.

While he advocates ‘our right to download’, he also requests the ‘prospective’ downloaders to wait till Saturday – to give the film produced by him a fair chance with its theatrical release.

He doesn’t appeal to the downloaders to desist from doing what is virtually unstoppable, i.e., preventing a film from going viral on different websites, including the content sharing ones.

He just requests for them to wait till Saturday.

And that is the normal mode any film’s online presence has. A film is usually uploaded on websites on the next day of its release in theatres. Normally these are bad prints as most of them are camera videos of the film taken while a film is being played.

He wants a grand opening for Udta Punjab’. And why not?

When he says it is about ‘vested interests’, he is making a statement.

The film faced undue controversy only because the assembly polls in Punjab are within a year and drug menace, the burning issue of Punjab, is focus of the film.

Allegations of political interference may or may not be true. Now that the film is in theatres, no one is going to dig more into this.

But the way the controversy has shaped so far, it shows our escapist nature, and it vouches for our obstructionist nature in letting the status quo flow in favor of our escapist nature.

Now that the film has got some solid publicity because of this controversy and has won the battle to get onto theatre screens in time, a brilliant opening in theatres will be a befitting reply to all those naysayers.

Whether the film is for entertainment or whether it carries some socially poignant is not the case. The Udta Punjab row has come to epitomize the ‘freedom of expression Vs illogical censorship’ struggle and if the filmmakers really have made a poignant film, as various reviews of Udta Punjab suggest, the best way to show solidarity with them is to watch the film in theatres.

And that is what perhaps Anurag Kashyap has in mind.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

CENSOR BOARD REVAMP: IS PAHLAJ NIHALANI A BLESSING IN DISGUISE?

A person like Pahlaj Nihalani, who has always been in controversies ever since he joined the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the Censor Board, as its chief decision maker in January 2015, how can he be a blessing in disguise for the film watchdog that routinely exceeds its brief and goes on censoring films on flimsy grounds like we saw in the ‘Udta Punjab’ case?

But when we see the tough responses from the government after the uproar over ‘Udta Punjab’ censorship/certification issue and some snubbing remarks against Pahlaj Nihalani, we can sense something positive is about to happen.

If Pahlaj Nihalani’s term becomes a trigger for it, it will be a real blessing in disguise.

And if it happens so, it will be a much needed reform languishing for years.

India’s CBFC has become synonymous with controversies. The pace has only exacerbated with Pahlaj Nihalani at the helm of affairs. Sometimes he finds a children movie like ‘The Jungle Book’ scary enough to give it a U/A-certificate that requires adult supervision. Sometimes he objects to kissing scenes in James Bond’s latest flick ‘Spectre’. He finds ‘Aligarh’, a film on homosexuality, not less than an A-certificate. This is when legalizing homosexuality is a raging debate in India and the matter is in the Supreme Court. This is when India has had many gay pride parades in the recent past.

The list of Pahlaj Nihalani’s antics is long – including his botched attempt to show a five minute clip in theatres on Narendra Modi’s achievements. His attempts to insert the clip during intermission breaks of Salman Khan starrer ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’ failed miserably.

But CBFC’s controversies go well beyond Pahlaj Nihalani.

In 2002, ‘War and Peace’, a film by Anand Patwardhan, was blocked by the Censor Board as it contained 9/11 US attacks and nuclear-testing scenes. The board asked for many cuts. The board’s diktat was finally overturned by the court. The board banned 2003 film ‘Gulabi Aaina’ (The Pink Mirror – the global release title), a sensitive portrayals of transsexuals. The film has been critically acclaimed the world over but still remains banned in India. This is when India had already seen some brilliant films on eunuchs, like Kalpana Lajmi’s ‘Darmiyaan’ in 1997. The board initially blocked the 2004 documentary ‘Final Solution’, based on 2002 Gujarat riots, but relented later on and cleared it without any cut after protests. Filmmakers of the 2011 global hit ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ didn’t release in the film in India after they found CBFC’s demand of cuts unreasonable.

These are just a few major instances on how erratically our Censor Board has been acting.

Also, it has been an open secret that how money exchanges hands for a film to get the CBFC certificate. The arrest of CBFC CEO Rakesh Kumar in 2014 on bribing charges had created a storm. Many filmmakers then had come out in the open to speak how difficult and money-laced it had become to get a film passed through the Censor Board. The episode showed how corruption had become a way of life in the statutory body that regulates public exhibition of films in India. In fact, corruption in the censor board/film certification watchdog has become common to the extent that no one now pays attention to it.

Now if that Censor Board sees some fundamental changes, because of Pahlaj Nihalani’s illogical attitude on ‘Udta Punjab’, Mr. Nihalani’s term indeed would be a blessing in disguise for everyone who loves freedom of expression and feels disturbed over the bizarre ways of CBFC.

Information & Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley has given ample indications in this direction hinting ‘radical changes’ in the functioning of the film watchdog. His deputy Rajyavardhan Rathore had tweeted, “Certification only, not censorship”.

To cement the Pahlaj Nihalani angle here, union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a public snub, said prime minister Narendra Modi didn’t need sycophants. The snub came after Pahlaj Nihalani tried to portray himself as a Narendra Modi loyalist by saying that ‘he would feel proud in being labelled a Modi Chamcha (sycophant)’.

Also, a central government counsel told the Delhi High Court yesterday that CBFC would not challenge the Bombay High Court order in the Supreme Court. Later in the evening, the Censor Board issued certificate to the film. If we say that there has been a personal grudge on the part of Pahlaj Nihalani in the ‘Udta Punjab’ controversy, as the filmmakers allege, it amply reflects in the certificate issued. The certificate mentions names of two justices of the Bombay High Court who cleared the movie. The Censor Board had never done so earlier even if the courts have regularly overturned the board’s decision. Additionally, there have been allegations flying that the Censor Board is responsible for the leaked print of ‘Udta Punjab’ that is available on many torrent websites.

Pahlaj Nihalani was already on the radar. After a spate of controversies, the I&B Ministry formed a CBFC revamp committee headed by eminent film personality Shyam Benegal this January and its draft report is already in. To make matters worse for Pahlaj Nihalani in the ‘Udta Punjab’ case, after watching the film, Benegal had remarked that it was a ‘very well made and technically sound’ film. After the Bombay High Court verdict, he went on the say that the verdict should bring a paradigm change in CBFC functioning, i.e., as a certification body and not some censoring watchdog.

Hope this happens now. CBFC should be made relevant. The changes in its structure and functioning should reflect the needs of the times we are living in. Kissing scenes were controversial once. Now they are quite common even in TV serials. When we debate logics behind the ban culture country, from books, to films, to websites, to TV content – how can we follow this draconian practice of banning a film only because it will highlight a social malaise? We should, in fact, welcome such efforts. As alleged, politics should not be allowed to make CBFC a theatre of the absurd with hopeless credentials. After all, when we have the power to think, decide and elect our government, can’t we decide on the good and bad messages of a film? The government should have no role in telling us what to eat, what not to eat, what to wear, what not to wear, what to watch, what not to watch, where to go, where not to go – unless we violate the Constitutional norms – unless we break the law.

And for ‘Udta Punjab’ – the film is set to release tomorrow in theatres after clearing four court hurdles and CBFC. The Bombay High Court on June 13 had cleared the film with just one cut against Nihalani’s demands of multiple cuts including omission of references to the names of all places in the film including Punjab. The court firmly backed the film fraternity’s sincerity and its need for freedom of expression in choosing subjects of films. Yesterday it was in the Delhi High Court and today the Supreme Court and the Punjab & Haryana High Court refused to put a stay on the release of the film.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

IS PAHLAJ NIHALANI A BLESSING IN DISGUISE?

A person like Pahlaj Nihalani, who has always been in controversies ever since he joined the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the Censor Board, as its chief decision maker, how can he be a blessing in disguise for the film watchdog that routinely exceeds its brief and goes on censoring films on flimsy grounds like we saw in the ‘Udta Punjab’ case?

But when we see the tough responses from the government after the uproar over ‘Udta Punjab’ censorship/certification issue and some tough words for Pahlaj Nihalani, we can sense something positive is about to happen.

And if it happens so, it will be a much needed reform languishing for years.

India’s CBFC has become synonymous with controversies. Sometimes, it finds a children movie like ‘The Jungle Book’ scary enough to give it a U/A-certificate that requires adult supervision. Sometimes, it objects to kissing scenes in James Bond’s latest flick ‘Spectre’. Pahlaj Nihalani was there both the times.

Also, it has been an open secret that how money exchanges hands for a film to get CBFC certificate. The arrest of CBFC CEO Rakesh Kumar from Mumbai in 2014 on bribing charges had created a storm. Many filmmakers then had come out in the open to speak how difficult and money-laced it had become to get a film passed through the Censor Board. The episode showed how corruption had become a way of life in the statutory body that regulates public exhibition of films in India. In fact, corruption in the censor/film certification watchdog has become common to the extent that now no one pays attention to it.

Now if that Censor Board sees some fundamental changes, because of Pahlaj Nihalani’s illogical attitude on Udta Punjab, Mr. Nihalani’s term indeed would be a blessing in disguise for everyone who loves freedom of expression and feels disturbed by the bizarre ways of CBFC.

Information & Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley has given ample indications in this direction hinting ‘radical changes’ in the functioning of the film watchdog. His deputy Rajyawardhan Rathore had tweeted, “Certification only, not censorship”.

And to cement Pahlaj Nihalani angle to it, union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a public snub, said prime minister Narendra Modi didn’t need sycophants. The sub came after Pahlaj Nihalani tried to portray himself as a Narendra Modi loyalist by saying that ‘he would feel proud in being labelled a Modi Chamcha (sycophant).

Also, a central government counsel told the Delhi High Court that CBFC would not challenge the Bombay High Court order in the Supreme Court.

The Bombay High Court on June 13 had cleared the film with just one cut against Nihalani’s demands of multiple cuts including omission of references to the names of all places in the film including Punjab. The court firmly backed the film fraternity’s sincerity and its need for freedom of expression in choosing subjects of films.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/