We are not Congress stooges: Censor Board’s Ira Bhaskar

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New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) Academician Ira Bhaskar, one of the 10 members to quit the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) following chairperson Leela Samson’s resignation, says they are “not Congress stooges” and were never “rebels without a cause”.

A proof, she says, is the December 2013 letter in which the board had stated to the then Information and Broadcasting minister, their concerns about the “difficulties and obstacles” to the realisation of their goals.

Jaitley in a Facebook post titled “Rebels Without a Cause” Saturday slammed the “alleged interference by the government and corruption in the (censor) board” cited by Samson and other members.

He even said they were all “UPA appointees” and if there’s any corruption, they “have themselves to blame”.

But Bhaskar, a professor of Cinema Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University here, says that the matter for them is not about the BJP or the Congress.

“It’s not about the party, the bureaucrats or the ministers. It is about the health of the CBFC — the film certification process and by extension social interests as well.”

“We are not Congress stooges, all of us who have resigned. We are academicians, professionals and film critics, and we have been trying to make efforts to get the ministry to pay attention to our attempts to make film certification a transparent and efficient process,” Bhaskar told IANS in an interview.

“This would help not only the film industry, but all stakeholders involved. We continued attempting to make efforts towards the realisation of our vision, and hoped that despite the fact that our term was over in April 2014, and we were on extension, we would be able to work towards our goals,” Bhaskar said.

“The matter has got nothing to do with the BJP or Congress. Even when the Congress was in power rule, it was the same.”

Apart from Bhaskar, Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma, Rajeev Masand, Sekharbabu Kancherla, Shaji N. Karun, Shubhra Gupta, T.G. Thyagarajan, Mamang Dai and Arundhati Nag have put in their papers via a letter to the ministry. M.K. Raina and Anjum Rajabali resigned earlier.

Samson was appointed chairperson April 1, 2011, and the board members were appointed at the end of April the same year.

No board meeting has taken place for the last one year since January 2014 and Jaitley has said that Samson, as chairperson, should have convened the meetings, and it is not for the minister or secretary to do it.

But Bhaskar said that when Samson asked the CBFC CEOs — first Rakesh Kumar and then Shravan Kumar — to organise the board meetings, she was initially told in April 2014 that the government is going to change and it would be possible only after the elections. Subsequent demands by Samson for board meetings were met by a response that there was a lack of funds.

Bhaskar also said that both Shravan Kumar, who was appointed by Prakash Javadekar as interim CBFC CEO after former CEO Rakesh Kumar was arrested on bribery charges, and before his arrest Rakesh Kumar himself, had stopped reporting to Samson.

“If the ministry keeps filling the CBFC with their people and coterie, it will largely affect the film certification process, the film industry, and ultimately the interests of society itself,” Bhaskar told IANS.

She said the system that exists for film certification, is “good”, but the government needs to support the CBFC as an autonomous body, whose decisions on certification must be upheld.

Bhaskar even wants the current government to take a dekko at their December 2013 letter to the then minister as well as the Mudgal Committee Report, which earlier in 2013 aimed to address what ails the process of film certification. But in vain.

“People just don’t want anything to change. The suggestions for changes in the Cinematograph Act of 1952 have not been been presented to parliament as yet,” she said.

Bhaskar says instead of playing the blame game, the people calling the shots must look at their earlier letter to the minister for “some strong suggestions on rehauling the systems of the functioning of the CBFC…and suggestions for strengthening both the freedom of expression of filmmakers, and their social responsibility”.

“After all, during our tenure, we have had successes with film certification and have also had some strong judgments from the Supreme Court and the high court supporting artists’ freedom of expression.”

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