Films on major political leaders face the hurdle of getting permission. Filmmakers question this rule.
Bollywood filmmakers might be cashing in on the biopics on the life of famous personalities, which seem to have become a sure shot formula to rule the box-office game, it isn’t always a cakewalk for them to sail through smoothly and release their film without facing censorship issues.
Recently, actor Anupam Kher shared the poster of his upcoming film, The Accidental Prime Minister, a biopic on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, based on a book by journalist Sanjaya Baru. The filmmakers have been asked by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to get a no-objection certificate from Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and all other real-life characters depicted in the film.
When we contacted actor Anupam Kher, who is reprising the role of Manmohan Singh, in the film, he said, “I’m under a contract with the producer to not to talk about the film. Giving any view would mean talking about the film. We’ve just announced the film, so there’s no point in talking about it as of now. Once we finish the shooting, then it would make some sense.”
Filmmakers seem to be unhappy with the hurdles they face in obtaining NOCs while trying to show a film based on top political leaders, on the celluloid.
Last month, a film titled The Insignificant Man, based on the life of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, faced a similar situation — filmmakers Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla were asked to get NOCs from Kejriwal, PM Narendra Modi and former CM Sheila Dixit. “It’s a ridiculous demand. Our film is a journalistic documentary,” Shukla was quoted as saying. The film has travelled across the globe at major film festivals including Toronto International Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival and Busan International Film Festival. Director Alankrita Shrivastava, whose film Lipstick Under My Burkha faced the CBFC axe before being cleared by a parallel forum, believes that one can’t take censorship too seriously in India and this whole concept of censorship should be thrown out of the window and there should be just basic certification system. She says, “These biopics made on political figures, would have used footage, which is public footage from public rallies and all of that, so I don’t know from where this thing of an NOC comes in. I’m sure filmmakers know that they need permission while making a film on somebody’s life. [Also] We live in a democratic country and we all have been granted freedom of speech as part of our constitution. So, let’s act as a mature democracy and a country where there’s a healthy culture of filmmaking. We can’t have this fear of censorship all the time.” In the past too, films such as Modi Ka Gaon, which featured a character referring to PM Narendra Modi was asked to obtain NOC from the PMO (Prime Minister Office) and Election Commission, failing which the film is still stuck with CBFC and the makers are planning to go to the revising committee now. Director Tushar Amrish Goel, who directed Modi Ka Gaon, which is stuck waiting to get Censor Board’s nod, says, “When films are made on sports personalities or an actor, it’s easy to get their permission and moreover, these people buy the rights. But when there’s a political leader involved in a biopic, censor board should understand that it’s not a child’s play to obtain NOCs. [Also] I feel Pahlaj Nihalani is not giving freedom to Indian cinema, as he recently said that even the films going to film festivals should have a censor certification.” Sonakshi Sinha’s Noor, too, faced censorship issues when the makers had to do away with the name Dutt in a reference to journalist Barkha Dutt, because “referring to real-life characters without their consent is not allowed.” Trade analyst Amod Mehra, however, feels that Censor Board is just doing their job and there’s no harm in it.