[Reader-list] Press release

Anjali Sagar starchild at anjalika.demon.co.uk
Sat Jun 1 07:33:38 IST 2002

Press Release

Censor Board at war with “WAR AND PEACE

War and Peace a three hour long documentary by Anand Patwardhan won two
major awards at the recently concluded 7th Mumbai International Film
Festival  the Best Film/Video of the Festival, and the International Jury

The video begins and ends with the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi. Focusing on the
danger of nuclear war in the Indian subcontinent it goes on to describe the
problems faced by people living near nuclear testing and mining sites, the
horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the culpability of the USA in using Atom
bombs on a nation that was about to surrender, the globalization of the arms
trade, but most of all it derives its power and emotional appeal from the
growing movement for peace both in India and in Pakistan.

We submitted the film to be certified by the Censor Board on April 15.
Following the wide acceptance garnered by the film from the press and public
alike, we felt this would be a mere formality. We were wrong. From April 15
till April 30 we were twice issued the wrong forms by the Censor Board,
causing long delays. Finally our preview tape was accepted on April 30 but
fault was found with the paging of the transcripts, and later, with the
binding of the transcripts. In any case our tape remained with the Censor
Board from April 30 till today (more than a month). Finally on May 27 our
application was deemed correct and complete. Now a new saga began. We were
asked to stay in touch with an officer of the Censor Board who would set up
the Censor screening after the examining committee had been named. We called
this officer everyday for four days only to be told that there was a delay
because the Censor Board needed to locate a Japanese translator who could
verify that our Japanese translations were correct. This seemed to be a
strange problem as the only Japanese in our video is the testimony of Atom
bomb survivors and this is hardly controversial enough to warrant such
scrutiny of the Censor Board!

What we had first thought to be mere bureaucratic delay and incompetence
turned out to be something much more deliberate. The Sudhir Yardi Memorial
trust had obtained special permission from the Police and Entertainment Tax
Departments to screen “War and Peace” at the YB Chavan Centre in Mumbai on
the 1st of June as it was an award winning film and it was a non-commercial
screening. On May 30, Mr. Vijay Desai of the Chavan Centre received an angry
call from Mr. Singhla, Regional Officer of the Censor Board, Mumbai
threatening dire consequences if the screening went ahead.

I phoned Mr. Singhla to find out whether in view of the impending screening,
the Censor viewing could be expedited or if special permission could be
granted for the screening. He was brusque and arrogant while denying the
permission and stated that the Censor viewing would take its own time. He
also added that our video would run into trouble because it had references
to the Tehelka arms scandal which was sub-judice. I was shocked. Not only is
he wrong in that the Tehelka issue is up before a fact finding commission of
enquiry and not in a court of law and therefore cannot be sub-judice, but
how did he know that our video had referenced Tehelka? This is a tiny
fraction of our 3 hour video and occurs toward the end. Did the Regional
Officer watch our video himself before constituting an examining committee?
Is that the act of an impartial officer or of an interested party?

I went on to point out that the Films Division of India which comes under
the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting had not only awarded our video
but was about to screen all award winning films and videos of MIFF 2002 in
Kolkata regardless of whether they had censor certificates. “War and Peace”
was to be the inaugural film on 31st May. At this Mr. Singhla laughed and
said “Let us see how they show the film”.

He was right. This Regional Officer has powers that go beyond his region. I
learnt on May 31 that our video had been withdrawn at the last minute from
the Kolkata festival. The Films Division could not use the argument about
the censor certificate as many films they were showing had no certificate.
So they told the press that our video “had not arrived”. When the press
contacted us we had documentary proof that the Films Division had signed a
receipt for the film two weeks ago! Then they said that the film had arrived
but the quality was bad. But I had a letter from them only three days ago
inviting me to come to Kolkata for the inauguration. The letter does not
mention either the non-arrival or the bad quality of our video.

I do not blame officials of the Films Division of anything more than wanting
to protect their jobs. They were going to show “War and Peace” in all
sincerity until rudely stopped by some invisible force. This invisible force
has in the last 15 years taken our country to the abyss. I want this
invisible force to come clean and reveal itself to the public gaze. Let it
openly declare that it does not believe in democracy or in the values
propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. These values of non-violence and religious
tolerance are what “War and Peace celebrates and hopes to rekindle in our
psychologically and physically scarred region of the globe.

Anand Patwardhan  1st June 2002 

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