Vishwaroopam fallout: Govt to revisit film censorship law

I&B ministry plans to set up a committee to examine film certification issues
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First Published: Thu, Jan 31 2013. 08 14 PM IST
Actor Kamal Haasan talks to reporters about the Vishwaroopam controversy at his residence in Chennai. Photo: SaiSen
Actor Kamal Haasan talks to reporters about the Vishwaroopam controversy at his residence in Chennai. Photo: SaiSen
Updated: Fri, Feb 01 2013. 11 31 AM IST
New Delhi: The information and broadcasting ministry plans to set up a committee to review the Cinematograph Act under which the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) regulates the public exhibition of films by granting them certificates under different categories in light of the controversy surrounding the release of actor-producer Kamal Haasan’s latest film Vishwaroopam.
Films in India can be exhibited publicly only after they have been certified by the censor board. The Madras high court has stayed the release of the film in Tamil Nadu over allegations of anti-Muslim bias against the film. Haasan has denied the accusation.
Speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Thursday, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said that the ministry would set up a panel to examine issues related to film certification and come up with recommendations that can be incorporated in the amendment to the Act. “We decided to form a committee after a brief discussion with the ministry officials this morning,” he said.
Tewari said the stay on the release of the film was a “dangerous precedent and a matter of concern.” He said that only the central government has the power to certify films through CBFC, the statutory censorship and classification body.
“Film certification powers are within the exclusive domain of the central government in terms of the constitutional scheme,” he said. “It is imperative that the integrity of the constitutional scheme be upheld. Therefore a view has been taken to re-examine the statutory framework to ensure the optimization of this mandate.”
The terms of reference of the committee and who its members should be will be decided by the ministry soon, he said.
Haasan on Thursday virtually ruled out moving the Supreme Court against the ban on Vishwaroopam for now, saying he was thankful to Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s offer to end the impasse over the film.
“I thank the chief minister. I am grateful to her. She has been kind enough to offer her help... now that she has helped us why should we go (to the Supreme Court),” he told a press conference in Mumbai after the premiere of the Hindi version of the film releasing on Friday.
The 58-year-old actor was asked whether he would move the apex court against the Madras high court order staying the release of the film that was banned by the state government in the wake of objections raised by some Muslim outfits.
Breaking her silence a week after the ban exploded into a national controversy, Jayalalithaa said in Chennai this morning that she has no “personal grudge” against Haasan or “personal interest” in the ban. She offered to facilitate an amicable settlement.
She said the government had made a request to Haasan to show the movie to a few representatives of the Muslim organisations. “Had he done it, the problem would have been avoided. But he avoided showing the movie.”
Jayalalithaa also justified the ban on Vishwaroopam, citing the shortage of police to provide security at theatres. She said the ban was imposed based on intelligence inputs about likely violence.
Haasan earlier said he doesn’t want to be drawn into talk of a political aspect to the ban on the spy thriller made at a budget of nearly Rs.100 crore. He was replying to a query on Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party chief M. Karunanidhi’s statement suggesting such an angle.
“I am still hurt, but calm,” said Haasan, after having declared on Wednesday that he would exile himself from Tamil Nadu over its intolerance toward freedom of expression.
Justice K. Venkataraman had issued an interim stay on the Tamil Nadu government’s order on Tuesday midnight. But that in turn got stayed on Wednesday morning by a division bench of the Madras high court, which delayed the release of the film until 6 February. The Wednesday order was in response to a petition filed by the state government and some Muslim organizations against Tuesday night’s order.

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