While Ashvin Kumar, the intrepid filmmaker whose Kashmir chronicles have constantly run into trouble with the censor board, claims his new film No Fathers In Kashmir has been blocked by the CBFC, the CBFC refutes the charge.
Says Tushar Karmarkar, Regional Officer, CBFC Mumbai, “"Contrary to baseless rumours and false news about the delay or denial in certification of the film ‘No Fathers in Kashmir’, this is to put across clear and straight that this film has gone through the due process of examination and has already been recommended an A certificate. The film was unanimously found suitable for a mature audience by the members of the committees, and the same has already been communicated to the filmmaker for his compliance.”
Ashvin, however, has another story to tell.
Says the filmmaker, “the CBFC orders, and I quote ….. ‘the film is not suitable for unrestricted public exhibition but may be suitable for public exhibition restricted to adults provided you carry out the excisions/ modifications in the film .’ They are saying my film is not suitable and the certificate is denied as the film cannot be shown in public. In common parlance, this is called a ban.”
Ashvin further denies the CFBC claims, “CBFC claims that they have offered an A certificate. It is manifest vide orders above that the A certificate has not been offered. As per order above, it is firstly conditional on cuts and affidavits that they have asked for. Further, the use of words ‘maybe’ indicates that should we even go ahead with these cuts, which we have refused as below, even then, an (A) certificate itself is not assured. Given the above order couched with conditions and prerequisites, if CBFC still claims that certificate has not been denied then it must be a typo (twice - for it appears in both the orders) and I am very happy. They may please let me know when I can come over to collect the certificate for unrestricted viewing. If not, then they should apologize for misrepresenting the facts in the media and contradicting their own order, not once but twice.”
Ashvin refuses to take the cuts ordered by the CBFC. “ According to us the cuts are arbitrary, against the viewers' right to know and my right to speak under Article 18 and in fact against the superior courts' legal precedent. In the first round, the CBFC banned the film on 12/10/18 grounds.W e appealed to the Tribunal on 09/11/18 date and vide their order dated 11/12/18 the Tribunal sent it back to CBFC because we were not given a proper statutory hearing. An opportunity was therefore required to be given to the applicant to express his views on the proposed cuts and excisions. We are satisfied with seeing the record that in this case such an opportunity has not been given.”
Ashvin awaits another date from the CBFC. “In view of our finding regarding non-grant of an opportunity of hearing to the Appellant regarding proposed cuts the impinged order is liable to be set aside on this short ground. However, with the consent of the parties impugned order is set aside. We direct the CBFC to grant a hearing to the Appellant within a week from today. After hearing the appellant on the cuts and excisions as directed and hear the appellant also on its claim for a UA certification within a week from today…. It is stated by the Regional Officer that within 10 days from today they shall pass a speaking order after giving a hearing to the Appellant. In reality, therefore, despite the Regional Officer giving an undertaking to FCAT that a speaking order will be passed within a deadline of 10 days before the FCAT — CBFC delayed even that screening. They finally passed the order on the 03/01/19 defaulting on their own deadline of 10 days, a further 3 weeks (11th of December till 3rd of January) delay, in disregard of The Tribunal’s directive. It was only on basis of this deadline that RO of CBFC had committed to during our hearing at the Tribunal that we consented that the film may go back to CBFC. In other words, our consent was entirely based on the deadline agreed to by all parties given the 6 months of delay we had already endured. Thereafter, I was informed on 25th of December, Christmas Day (a public holiday) that the hearing/screening will happen on the next day 26th of December - it was less than 24 hrs notice. I was out of town so informed CBFC that I would be sending my lawyer to represent me. There was no objection at the time but when my lawyer appeared at the screening hall to be heard, CBFC refused to allow my lawyer to represent me, even though legal representation is a fundamental right and CBFC's own rules permit a filmmaker to be represented. So, Please note the arbitrary and ad hoc manner in which rules were specially made up as we go along.
Ashvin questions the process of certification. “ The Tribunal themselves have rarely sent a film back to the CBFC. It was done on this occasion because the Learned Judge found that we were not given a just hearing and that affects our fundamental rights as well as contradicts the rules of the CBFC. The delay of 6 months when CBFC’s own website puts a period of 68 days, is also pertinent. The CBFC's assertion in the public domain that ‘due process’ was followed is also incorrect. Bizarrely, the cuts the CBFC the felt justified a ban found zero mention in the second decision of the Revising Committee and for altogether new reasons the CBFC banned the film — for a second time. Having won two National Awards for my earlier films on Kashmir I had to miss this year's deadline for submissions.I've also been forced to wait, our funds tied up for excruciating delays made for no reason - hard, as you know, for any independent filmmaker.”
Ashvin wants a’UA’ for No Fathers In Kashmir. “We require a UA certificate because the film is about two innocent 16-year old millennials whose story will resonate with teenagers across India. It is our attempt to create a sense of compassion and empathy between young people based on the realities of what is going on in Kashmir so a new generation can start the process of truth-telling, dialogue and ultimately peace.
The whimsical and frivolous nature of CBFC arguments suggests that they have failed to appreciate the overall intent of the film, but not knowing how to ban or restrict a film without nudity, violence, obscenities, drug abuse etc they have resorted to a well-rehearsed system of delays, harassment and nonsensical objections.”
Ashvin reminds us and the CBFC that this isn’t the first time his film has been banned. “I’d like to mention here that both my National awarded films Inshallah, football and Inshallah, Kashmir — both about Kashmir-- were also originally banned by CBFC. Given the delays, putting aside original objections and coming up with totally fresh new ones and the frivolous nature of objections (both times) gives a feeling that CBFC seems to be grasping at straws with arguments based on prejudice rather than law.”