The Censor Board chief, Leela Samson, has quit. And then the entire Board members have also followed her steps. Reason? A new film titled MSG : Messenger of God, by a controversial religious leader who plays himself in the film. Not only that, according to reports, the Baba of MSG can cure AIDS, bring a dead man back to life, and so on. So why exactly did the Censor Board Chief and the members quit? Because going by the way the film was cleared, it made them completely useless.
The Tribunal has all the rights to clear a film which the Board objects to. But there is a protocol to be followed – how the film goes from where to where, who is informed, who is kept in the loop, the issues Board members had with the film, and many more. In the case, none of the guidelines were followed. Again, going by reports, seems the Board Chief wasn’t even kept in the loop about how things went. And the film quickly got a clearance. Pulling strings always works, right? Especially when there is a political connect and clout. In that scenario, the Censor Board chief really has no role to play. The Board members followed the same route soon.
Yes, they were appointed during the previous Government. But the members had major issues with the previous Government too, in terms of transparency and making the system better. Every Government tries to put their people at various capacities. The members had given many recommendations to make it better and more independent. But none of it was followed. Their letter sent to previous Government is also embedded. That issue was going on, and then the final nail in the coffin by this Government. All gone with the wind!
Hail Baba’s film! Hail Babas rule!
The Minister of State,
Ministry of Information & Broadcasting
Government of India
With this letter, we the undersigned are submitting our resignation from our position as Board Members of the Central Board of Film Certification with immediate effect.
The events that led to the Chairperson Ms. Leela Samson resigning from her position are merely the proverbial last straw. Since the time that we first occupied seats on the Board, we have been asking for some critical changes, which are imperative if the functioning of the CBFC has to be reformed. However, in spite of sending numerous recommendations and appeals, and having several meetings with the Secretaries and senior officials of the ministry, and even one with an earlier Minister, not a single positive step has been taken by the Ministry. We had also sent a letter to the then I & B Minister in December 2013 making several recommendations that would strengthen CBFC as an institution, and that we were willing to work on with the government. The earlier letter is attached to this mail. None of the recommendations that we made in that letter have been taken on board, and there has been no engagement with us on crucial issues that we were raising.
The Advisory Panel continues to be filled up with people of questionable credentials appointed directly by the Ministry, without taking the Board’s recommendations into account. No funds have been released for conducting orientation workshops for the panel members. Officers from other departments, who have no understanding or experience in cinema are appointed as officials. Furthermore, there are several positions in the regional offices that do not have regular appointments There has been no Board meeting for the last one year for us to discuss developments and make recommendations, as we were told that there are no funds to organize it! It seems that the CBFC Board is not required at all.
This Board has consistently attempted to make the certification process more uniform, transparent, consistent and sensitive to the freedom of filmmakers’ right to expression with responsibility. The struggle to do so has been extremely frustrating and disappointing.
It is our firm position that given the cavalier and dismissive manner in which the CBFC is treated by the government, it is impossible to perform this duty with even a modicum of efficacy or autonomy. We also object to the way in which the Chairperson has been treated by the Ministry which we feel has been humiliating for us all. This is not the way in which the head of an organization ought to be treated, and it is certainly not one that is conducive to any productive relationship.
We do hope that the new Board will find the government more responsive than we have.
And here is their letter to previous Government