Rakesh Sharma is a noted Documentary filmmaker.
In 2004, the day after the Censors cleared my film Final Solution, after denying it a certificate 3 months earlier, I had a request for an unusual screening – a trade screening or a ‘trial’ show. At the screening, Sudhir Mishra joked with me looking at the crowd – “if you’d made a potboiler with Govinda, you wouldn’t get this kind of a turnout”!
With half hour to go before the film ended, a section of the audience erupted in Jai Shri Ram slogans, a strange and unexpected development as the auditorium only had people from the film industry. The luminary leading the slogan shouting was Pahlaj Nihalani, our new CBFC chief, who made a music video for the 2014 poll campaign – har ghar Modi, ghar ghar Modi.
Almost each newly-appointed member has saffron leanings – Ashok Pandit is a face familiar to many, well-known for shrieking his way through TV debates, stridently articulating the rightwing view. Vani Tripathi and George Baker have contested elections on BJP tickets. Others have been involved either with the BJP or its fraternal organisations within the RSS parivaar.
So, of course, there isn’t any political interference with the CBFC, now a truly independent body to arbitrate on the most basic question: What can you be allowed to watch – you, easily swayed, provoked and incited member of general public?
You, who makes perfect choices when it comes to electing your leaders, marrying someone, charting your career – why do you suddenly turn into a bumbling idiot as soon as you step into a dark auditorium? You certainly can’t be trusted with the choice for a movie, can you, even though you’re expected to sift through all the propaganda in the media to form your informed opinions or to make other crucial life-related decisions. You need a nanny, our very own CBFC, to hold your hand…
For over a decade, I’ve called for disbanding CBFC, turning it into just a ratings agency, taking away its power to maim, mutilate or ban any film. I’ve suggested that such decisions should be left to a second-tier body, on the lines of the Ad Council (for advertising), the Press Council or the TV Broadcasters forum, to arbitrate on any public grievance, with zero role being played by the politicians and bureaucrats. Take away censorship, let CBFC do age-appropriate certification.
The UPA shied away from the issue; the present government is now tightening its stranglehold on CBFC. “Achchhe din” are here to stay!