National Award-winning filmmaker outraged after the censor board’s Examining Committee ordered 12 cuts and two disclaimers in his upcoming film that is set against the Emergency.
Roshmila Bhattacharya (MUMBAI MIRROR; July 11, 2017)

Madhur Bhandarkar is in shock after coming out of a Censor Board screening which has handed his upcoming drama set against the backdrop of the Emergency 12 cuts and two disclaimers. “It’s absurd that names of political leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Morarji Desai and Lal Krishna Advani that appear in a newspaper that someone is reading doesn’t pass muster, nor does that of Jayaprakash Narayan even when it’s just part of a slogan being shouted. Nor for that matter do references to political terms like ‘Akali’, ‘Communist’ and the organisation RSS. It’s really disappointing. But what’s really mind-boggling is that even Kishore Kumar’s name (the singer’s songs were banned on All India Radio on Doordarshan because the he refused to perform at a Congress rally in Mumbai at the time) needs to be dropped!” exclaims the National Award-winning filmmaker, adding that before submitting the print to the censors, following discussions with friends from several political parties post the trailer release, he had already carried out voluntary censorship, making several changes in names and content because he did not want to upset or offend anyone.

What’s taken him by surprise is that lines like “Ab iss desh mein Gandhi ke maayne badal chuke hain” and “Bharat ki ek beti ne desh ko bandi banaya hua hai” which have been playing in the trailer on television, the social media and in the theatres since June 16, now appear in the list of lines to be deleted before the film can be released. Also, words like ‘IB’, ‘Section Officer’ and even ‘PM’ have been blacklisted. “What parameters are they following? What yardstick?” rages the disbelieving filmmaker who is also being questioned on his dedication to the “unsung heroes who fought for democracy during Emergency”. He has been asked to remove it and add two disclaimers.

The film has been in the eye of a storm since last month when members of the Congress party released a poster in Allahabad, demanding that the state government ban the film and stated that they would not let it open in city theatres.

The agitation spilled over to other states too. In a letter addressed to the Cine Circuit Association and the Cine Grah Sanchalan in Indore, Congress party workers demanded a ban in the Madhya Pradesh capital too and threatened to vandalise theatres, burn effigies of Bhandarkar and Anupam Kher, holding theatre owners responsible for any violence.

Earlier, Congress spokesperson Jyotiraditya Scindia had said, “The organisation and the individual who is behind the film is known to us. We totally condemn the false depictions in the film.” In his reply, Madhur has asked the party to let the CBFC take a call.

Today, he finds himself fighting on two fronts for what he points out is primarily a work of fiction which is simply set against a political backdrop. Reminding himself that ‘freedom of expression’ is his Constitutional right, he promises to fight this “arbitrary” censor diktat without relenting. “I will go to the Revising Committee and then the Tribunal. I’m deeply disappointed,” Bhandarkar asserts.

We tried calling CBFC chairperson Pahlaj Nihalani and even texted him but he remained unavailable for comment.