'Udta Punjab': New guidelines for film certification

New Delhi: Amid the raging controversy over the film 'Udta Punjab', the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Wednesday sought to make it clear that the government cannot interfere in the certification of a film and any grievance on the issue can be sorted out only by the appropriate tribunal. Top sources in the I&B ministry also said that in view of frequent complaints about censorship vis-a-vis film certification, the central government will soon consolidate a new set of guidelines "if necessary" on the basic film certification process. "A set of recommendations submitted by the Shyam Benegal-led committee is being examined and is under consideration of the government," a source told IANS here. "The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) is the only appropriate body for all disputes. Unnecessary controversies need not be created by attacking government or any individual," a source in the I&B ministry said here even as the controversy snowballed into a political row. The FCAT has adequate constitutional sanctity and is headed by a retired high court judge, the source said. Film co-producer Anurag Kashyap has attacked censor board chairman Pahlaj Nihalani over the 89 cuts ordered in the film, which deals with the drug menace in Punjab. On Wednesday, Nihalani alleged that he had heard that Kashyap had "taken money from AAP" to show Punjab in a bad light through "Udta Punjab".  The Aam Aadmi Party demanded that Nihalani must apologize to Kashyap and said Nihalani's statement makes it clear he has stopped the film's release on BJP's instructions. The filmmaker has denied that his film portrays Punjab in a poor light. The political row comes amid the backdrop of assembly elections in Punjab which are scheduled for early next year. 'Udta Punjab' director Abhishek Chaubey has reportedly been asked by the Revising Committee of the Censor Board to remove references to Punjab and to make several cuts. The Benegal panel, in its report submitted on April 26, urged the government to lay down a "holistic framework for certification of films",  The committee took note of best practices in various parts of the world and suggested that "adequate space" must be given for artistic and creative expression, the source said. Other members of the committee included film actor Kamal Haasan, filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, ad-man Piyush Pandey, film director Goutam Ghose, film critic Bhawana Somaaya and NFDC Managing Director Nina Lath Gupta. The panel, according to sources, has recommended that a filmmaker or an applicant "must specify the category of certification" being sought and the target audience. "The objective of these guidelines would be to ensure that children and adults are protected from potentially harmful or unsuitable content and also that artistic expression and creative freedom are not unduly curbed," the source added. The I&B ministry sources, however, said that previous court orders make it clear that in any dispute the I&B ministry cannot intervene or help resolve the dispute.