Video Editor: Varun Sharma
The Accidental Prime Minister – a biopic on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – is set for a worldwide release next week. The film takes a scathing view of the UPA regime and how Manmohan Singh was controlled by the Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi.
However, the trailer of the film has rubbed Ahmedabad-based filmmaker and theatre activist Dakxin Charra the wrong way. Charra has accused the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), better known as the censor board, of bias and discrimination.
Charra claims that The Accidental Prime Minister openly names politicians, political parties, shows party symbols and real situations during Manmohan Singh’s term as prime minister of the country.
Meanwhile, the censor board had ordered several cuts in his fictional movie Sameer which was shot extensively in Ahmedabad and released in September 2017. Sameer, which is a work of fiction, revolves around unearthing a terrorist plot.
In a letter written to the CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi, Charra has stated that he doesn’t have a problem with the movie The Accidental Prime Minister, instead he wants an explanation from the board on why his film was subjected to so many cuts.
Bone of Contention
Sameer was reviewed by the Examining Committee on 28 February 2017. After watching the movie, the screening committee called Charra and objected to the abusive language used in the movie.
"“Cuts ordered by the committee included removing BJP’s flag that was accidentally seen on a passing auto in one of the shots. Another cut pertained to a dialogue containing the words ‘mann ki baat’. The censor board claimed that it’s the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s radio show and cannot be used.”" - Dakxin Charra, Filmmaker
Charra, who had applied for a UA Certificate, was aghast when he was told that Sameer will get an A Certificate inspite of agreeing to mute all verbal abuses.
"“The examining committee insisted that the movie had too many violent scenes even though I kept arguing that there are several other films with greater gratuitous violence. I didn’t mind a couple of cuts, but I had objections to the others.”" - Dakxin Charra, Filmmaker
In a letter issued to Charra on 16 March 2017, the CBFC’s Examining Committee instructed Charra to mute the verbal abuses, reduce the torture scenes, remove ‘mann ki baat’, remove references to Al-Jazeera, remove the BJP flag and remove the dialogue “musalman hai kya?” (Are you a Muslim?)
“Change ‘Mann ki Baat’ to ‘Tann ki Baat’ or ‘Dil Ki Baat’”
On 22 March 2017, Charra met with the then CBFC Chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani who concurred with the cuts suggested by the screening committee. According to Charra, Nihalani told him that he had not watched the film, yet the cuts are apt and that Charra should not name any community like Muslims or Sikhs in his movie.
He even explained to Charra how to edit the opening torture scene with flash cuts.
According to the minutes of the meeting recorded by Charra, when he brought Nihalani’s attention to CBFC’s problem with the use of the term ‘mann ki baat’ in the film, Nihalani said, “But it is the PM’s Radio show. Why don’t you change it to ‘Tann ki Baat’ or ‘Dil ki Baat’? You cannot use this dialogue in a Gujarat-politics related film.”
Nihalani suggested that Charra make the cuts and approach the EC again instead of going to the Reviewing Committee who could add more cuts. Charra studied the Cinematography Act 1952 and the CBFC guidelines before approaching the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal (FCAT).
FCAT Raises New Issues
Charra was told by his peers that the FCAT takes a liberal stand; however, he was in for a rude shock. Charra met the FCAT bench in Delhi where the tribunal lauded his movie and at the same time asked him to reshoot the climax.
"“Shazia Ilmi, who was one of the FCAT members, told me that one of the scenes was shot in a bakery and was suggestive of the Best Bakery Massacre in Vadodara during the 2002 Gujarat Riots. She insisted that the scene be cut from the movie.”" - Dakxin Charra, Filmmaker
Charra was shocked as the FCAT insisted on the same cuts suggested by the EC and further suggested more dialogue cuts in the climax of Sameer which made no sense to him. “They made me cut the dialogue ‘Dilli ka rasta UP ho kar jaata hai’ (The road to Delhi is through UP) because it had a political undertone.”
Charra’s letter to CBFC
Dakxin Charra openly admits that he fully supports The Accidental Prime Minister, however, he also believes that his own movie was subjected to political bias and discrimination.
In his letter to the current CBFC chairperson Prasoon Joshi, Charra has asked why Congress flags were openly shown in the trailer. “The same censor board that had issue with a passing shot of a BJP flag on an auto-rickshaw, doesn’t mind close-ups of Congress flags or openly mentioning names of senior politicians.”
Charra hopes that the CBFC will address his concerns as he believes that his creative freedom was curtailed by the unnecessary politicisation of his movie.
"“I hope Prasoon Joshi replies. If he doesn’t, then I will send him a legal notice to explain the CBFC’s position. Once the movie releases, I will watch it and make points so that I can raise them in the court of law. If the censors had an issue with ‘mann ki baat’ how did they greenlight a scathing portrayal of a former prime minister and the former Congress party president.”" - Dakxin Charra, Filmmaker
The Accidental Prime Minister will be released worldwide on 11 January.
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