By: Molly, IndiaFM
Monday, June 25, 2007
The morning the Minister for Transport, Govt. of Maharashtra, Mr. S.D. Shinde came up with his belated call to bring a ban on speeding motor-bikes in Hindi films, it was clear that his call was not going to be taken lying down. The first strong reaction came from Sharmila Tagore, the Chairman, Central Board of Film Certification when she called the minister's reaction to the motor-bike scene in Yash Raj Film Dhoom-2, a film which was released recently then and was already a big hit was "stupid and rubbish". They were words with weight coming from the iron-lady who seems to mean business. She came up with all the justifications on why she reacted the way she did to the minister's call applying the brakes on the motor-bike scenes showing stars like John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan, Uday Chopra and Abhishek riding their motor-bikes in a very rough and risky way which the minister said would inspire youngsters to ride motor-bike just like their heroes did. Ms. Tagore said the minister was innocent and unaware of how those scenes were shot, the technical wizardry and the camera angle and the modern day special effects used to show how the motor-bikes in the film picked up the speed they could. In other words she said the minister was making an issue of a non-issue.
This is not the first time that a censor chief has come into conflict with politicians and their politicking. The last time it happened when Anupam Kher was the chairperson of the CBFC. He had accepted the post with a sense of responsibility and with the excitement to bring about some major changes in the censorship guidelines. He was all set to take his job seriously when he had a show down with the senior most Communist Party leader Surjeet Singh. The matter came to such a head that Anupam had to take the ageing politician to a magistrate's court in Andheri. The two thankfully and finally saw some sense and ended their confrontation but Anupam lost heart when he found other politicians trying to put all kinds of pressures on him. He tried his best to keep his balance in the interest of the industry and good cinema. But they would not let him carry out his functions the way he wanted. A time came when the pressures reached breaking point and Anupam just wrote a farewell letter to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, picked up his bag and flew down to freedom. He did not want to make a fool of himself. He says it was one of the most major decisions he had taken. He could have stayed on and enjoyed all the power and perks of being the chairperson but he refused to bow or bend to suit his own ends. "I am a responsible artist and a doubly responsible and conscientious citizen of India. I could not sell my conscience for a powerful and decorated chair. I have never taken nonsense from anyone and I will never ever whatever the circumstances I am in", Anupam says with positive pride.
If you ask me censorship of films in India could have its most exciting time when the late Vijay Anand was appointed the chairperson. He was one of the leading filmmakers, a trend-setter and a path-breaker. He accepted the post on the condition that he would be given all the freedom and there would be no interference from any place or position of power or influence. He took his job very seriously. He travelled all over the country, met filmmakers and regional censors if any in various cities with whom he exchanged opinions. He made a thorough study of all the censorship guidelines in India and the world and finally came up with proposals for change which if accepted would have brought about drastic changes in the outdated censorship code being followed during the last fifty years with no attempt made to go with the changing time. His proposals made the I and B Ministry see red. They, the custodians of Indian customs, culture and values found his ideas "startling and shocking". Some of them even went to the extent of calling him a mad man who they had made the mistake of offering him that prestigious chair. The moment Anand realized it was futile to hold on to his chair if he was not allowed the freedom to do what he wanted, he just walked out of his office and never looked back.
The late Hrishikesh Mukherjee was almost forced to take up the post. He was seen as a very lenient and kind chief. He tried his best to save filmmakers whenever they were in trouble over censor problem. He tried his best to see that no films were damaged at the censor's office. He sometimes offered his own services as an editor to free filmmakers who violated the censor guidelines. He retired with a lot of regrets which he never made open. Shakti Samata, another senior filmmaker tried his best to bring about changes during the two terms he was offered but he found himself in a hopeless position where the politicians always tried to push their heads full of outdated ideas into his functions. All the other previous censor chiefs unfortunately stayed in their posts toeing the lines of the people in power, the parties in power, and the influential sections of society. Sharmila Tagore now comes as a whiff of fresh and even fragrant wind. She has the courage to stand up and fight for the right kind of cinema which is possible if the Censor Board also helps. She has no vested interests. She has knowledge about both films and the culture and the ways of life in India. Filmmakers all over the country are seeing a ray of hope in her. Will she fulfill their hopes and be the Chief of the Board which the industry desperately needs today?
The Bollywood copycats
What best can our film star sell !