Utpal Borpujari

May 31, 2010

For Congress, ‘Rajneeti’ is full of Sonia

By Utpal Borpujari

From films like Gulzar’s Aandhi and Amrit Nahata’s Kissa Kursi Ka to books like Catherine Frank’s Indira: The Life of Indira Nehru Gandhi, an otherwise liberal-faced Congress’ ire has always fallen on anything that is construed to be critical of the Nehru-Gandhi family.

If for the Sangh Parivar any alleged attack on Hinduvta is reason enough for moral policing, with examples like those of M F Hussain’s paintings of nude goddesses and Deepa Mehta’s films Fire and Water highlighting it, for the Congress, it is the party’s first family that becomes the most sensitive factor.

The latest to barely escape an overzealous Congress’ ire is Rajneeti, Prakash Jha’s reworking of the Mahabharata in the context of present-day politics, for allegedly modelling Katrina Kaif’s character on party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Only a couple of years ago, the party ensured, through a legal notice sent by AICC spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, that Jagmohan Mundhra drop his planned biopic on Sonia Gandhi, based on an unauthorized biography of hers by a journalist.

In fact, the party has quite a history when it comes to blocking material that it considers has portrayed the Nehru-Gandhi family in critical light.

The most brazen among them was the burning down of the print of Kissa Kursi Ka, directed by Amrit Nahata and starring Shabana Azmi, Raj Kiran, Manohar Singh and Surekha Sikri, allegedly by goons sent by Sanjay Gandhi during Emergency.

Another film that suffered at Congress’ hand was Gulzar’s Aandhi. In July, 1975, soon after imposition of Emergency by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, it was banned as the party thought the lead character played by Suchitra Sen resembled Gandhi.

The film was cleared after quite a few months only after its makers agreed to delete some scenes and make some changes in the narrative.

Jha has vehemently denied that Kaif’s character has any similarity with Gandhi – “except that both are women” – but Congress got three pro-party members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) – Tom Vadakkan, Pankaj Sharma and Sanjeev Bhargava – to specially vet the film, flying them to Mumbai to view it.

AICC secretary Vadakkan, party mouthpiece Sandesh’s editorial department’s Sharma and cultural activist Bhargava reportedly took a dim view of certain scenes and dialogues in the film and suggested an ‘A’ (for adult viewing) certification.

But Jha finally got an ‘U/A’ (unrestricted viewing, including by children if accompanied by adults) certification from the Board’s appellate tribunal after deleting a few scenes, including portions of a lovemaking scene between Arjun Rampal and Kaif, beeping out some words and replacing the word “bidhwa” (widow) with reference to Kaif’s character with “bitiya” (daughter).

Two other important deletions have to do with a reported reference to tampering of the electronic voting machine and a mention that women have to sleep their way through to rise in politics.

All this apparently has settled the problems with the film, also starring Ranbir Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Nana Patekar, Naseeruddin Shah and Manoj Bajpai, which will see a worldwide release on June 4.

But the overt alertness by Congress about the film has once again highlighted the party’s extra-sensitivity towards matters relating to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

It goes without saying that the only dissenting member in the appellate tribunal decision, one Anil Thomas whose minority view was to grant the film an “A” certification for its violence and “gory sex scenes”, is reportedly close to Congress.

(An abridged version was published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 30-05-2010)

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/72387/for-congress-rajneeti-full-sonia.html

April 12, 2010

Coming soon: age-specific film certification system

By Utpal Borpujari

The Indian film certification system that divides movies into “U”, “UA” and “A” categories is soon going to witness a sea change, with three new categories to address age and, in certain cases, even the profession of the viewers.

The new film certification system is a crucial part of the draft Cinematograph Bill, 2010, which will be introduced in Parliament for ratification after suitable views from stakeholders, including the public.

Once cleared by Parliament, the new Act will replace the Cinematograph Act of 1952, considered by many to be archaic considering the change in all aspects of filmmaking and viewing in all these years.

While the new system will retain the “U” (for universal viewing) and “A” (for viewing by adult or 18+ viewers), the “UA” system, which was given to films viewable by children if accompanied by adults, will be replaced by more age-specific “12+” and “15+” certification categories.

The two new age-specific categories are aimed at giving certification to films on the basis of sensibilities towards language, violence, nudity and subject in various age groups.

The Bill also proposes a completely new category, called “S”, for films that will be allowed to have restricted exhibition only for members of particular profession or class, depending on their nature, content and theme.  However, the Bill does not explain what will be these professions or classes of people and what kind of films could fall under this certification category.

The Bill, addressing another important aspect of film certification, says that children below the age of three years, accompanying their parents or guardians, would be allowed to view all categories of films. This exception has been allowed ostensibly because of the reason that children so young cannot grasp those aspects of cinema because of which the age-specific certification exists.

Violations of various provisions of film certification by producers and exhibitors would attract fines that could range between imprisonment of not less than one year or a fine of Rs one to three lakh or both. If the violations continue even after that, a further fine of between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000 per day is also being envisaged in the Bill.

Addressing another important aspect, the draft Bill aims at ensuring that one-third of the members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly known as the “Censor Board”, as well as the advisory boards, will be women.

This is in consonance with the aims of the Women’s Reservation Bill, waiting the nod from Lok Sabha and aiming at ensuring one-thirds reservation for women in legislatures.

The Bill also fixes a lower and upper limit of 12 and 25 on the number of people who can be in the CBFC. However, it is silent on whether the same upper limit would be applicable to the regional boards of CBFC, which all the time end up as parking zones for the favourites and lackeys of the party in power.

Apart from this, the Bill proposes stringent action against film piracy, with punishments for the crime ranging between imprisonment of one to three years and fines of Rs 5-25 lakh, or both.

(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 12-04-2010)

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/63383/age-based-film-certification-system.html

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