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/

Advertisements

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/

POSITIVES OF PAHLAJ NIHALANI’S NEGATIVES (AT LEAST IN UDTA PUNJAB CASE)

The film Udta Punjab is already a hit. Now we need to wait and see how massive its box office collections come out to be. Reportedly, already the music rights of the film have been sold for a record sum of 18 Crore. So, the claims of alleged financial losses by film producers are going to be nothing but mere speculations.

It has gained more than enough word of mouth and media publicity, plus an endorsement by none other than Syam Benegal, one of the most eminent filmmakers India would ever see, and the person whom the union government has entrusted with the task to revamp the Censor Board. After watching the film, Benegal said Udta Punjab was a ‘very well made film’. That is an indication that the film is going to release without much dilution.

It has saved (if producers intended for it) millions that otherwise would have gone into marketing the movie. Now even those who are casual film watchers and would have given the movie a natural ignore would think about giving movie a chance. These are the days when any publicity is good for a business that deals with masses and Udta Punjab, in this case, has got some solid good publicity due to Pahlaj Nihalani’s rubbish logics.

So, be sure, the film is going to do some brisk business. And if its quality is really sustainable to take it further from the momentum that it has gained from this controversy, it will be a blockbuster of over 100 crore.

The episode has once again highlighted the pathetic condition India’s Censor Board has been forced into. Changing ideologies in power corridors change people manning institutions in a democracy and there is nothing wrong in it. But one needs to see that the next person in-charge is intellectually capable enough to keep away from senseless controversies that India’s Censor Board has been mired into ever since Pahlaj Nihalani assumed its charge in January 2015.

Mr. Nihalani has done what was once considered almost impossible. He has brought together the film fraternity on a platform together. So it is not only those filmmakers who make socially relevant films who are outraged on this immoral and ridiculous censor act by Pahlaj Nihalani and are speaking out against him, but even those filmmakers like Karan Johar who exist in the comfortable domain of song and dance cinema, are also out there to raise strong voices against the dictatorial and unacceptable ways of India’s Censor Board.

And above all, the controversy has effectively put the ‘Punjab’s drug menace’ on people’s radar, out of Punjab, in the national consciousness. India has 29 states and Punjab is just a small one. Still, over 20% of narcotics seizures in India (including opioids like heroin) are reported from Punjab. Studies put adult drug users around 10 lakh in the state. But there is an increasing chunk of minors that these studies haven’t counted yet. And we can safely assume that the real count would be much higher because no study can effectively map a state of 2.77 crore people to gauge a social malaise like drug abuse that people are hesitant to report. Also, alcohol is another addiction that may compound Punjab’s drugs issue. Last year, some 33 crore liquor bottles were sold in Punjab, more than ten times of its population of 2.77 crore.

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