“We feel vindicated,” says filmmaker Vinay Shukla over the phone. His voice mirrors his mood. Six months ago, when Shukla and his co-director, Khusboo Ranka, approached the then Pahlaj Nihalani-headed CBFC submitted their documentary on Arvind Kejriwal, ‘An Insignificant Man’, for certification, Nihalani had asked for all references to the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress Party to be deleted.
He also asked them to get a “no objection” certificate from any of the political figures depicted, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kejriwal and former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. “We felt really humiliated then. We couldn’t believe that this could be the stand of a film certification board of a modern democracy,” says Shukla.
Today, the Film Certification Tribunal passed the documentary without any cuts or the muting of any names, Mumbai Mirror reported. “But what is a bigger relief is that they did away with the NOC thing. Even if it were a feasible proposition, we wouldn’t do that. Nihalani’s demand goes against the very idea of freedom of expression,” says Ranka.
According to the tribunal, requiring NOC from public personalities will cull the film. “There is considerable merit in the submission of the Appellant that requiring NOC from public personalities would cull the documentary cinema, rather render the making of a documentary on political scenario nigh impossible”, the tribunal stated.
Why did Nihalani find the documentary objectionable?
When Ranka and Shukla screened the film for the examining committee in February, they were told that the film will be sent to the revising committee. That itself is highly unusual. “We were not even given a reason for this. Which is against the protocol. Even when Lipstick Under My Burkha was sent to a revising committee, they were given a reason. Which was the famous ‘lady-oriented’ statement,” says Shukla.
A screening was then organised for the revising committee, which was attended by Nihalani. “We were then told they wanted us to delete six references to the BJP and the Congress and get the NOCs,” says Shukla.
When Shukla and Ranka sought audience with Pahlaj Nihalani, he refused to entertain them. “He asked his guards to escort us out of his office,” says Ranka.
In an interview to Mumbai Mirror, Nihalani mentioned that he wants an NOC because he doesn’t want to be dragged to the court. “In Jolly LLB 2, they made a mention of Bata and the company dragged the studio to court. The Censor Board was also made a party to it. Anyone can file a case, we can’t spend our time in the courtroom instead of doing our job. So the NoC is a must,” Nihalani told Mumbai Mirror.
‘This is just a small victory’
“We are happy that we have a release date for the film but it’s also true that this is not a feasible solution. We can’t keep approaching the Film Certification Tribunal whenever there is some issue.” says Shukla. Don’t they think that the new CBFC chief Prasoon Joshi, will be more understanding? “It’s not the question of the CBFC chief being understanding or nice. The main problem is that there are plenty of loopholes in our film certification system. People with vested political interests keep exploiting these loopholes.The whole system has to be overhauled,” says Ranka.