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1

Rakesh Sharma, producer of award winning documentary on the Gujarat riots called the Final Solution has issued an urgent press release protesting false claims made by Anupam Kher with regard to his film. Since MSM is unlikely to broadcast these, readers of this blog are urged to spread the message and demand accountability from CNN-IBN and Times Now. The Press Release is as follows.

It has been brought to my notice that Mr Anupam Kher, ex-Chairman, CBFC has been making patently false claims about the sequence of events surrounding the ban on my film Final Solution (on the Gujarat 2002 carnage) during his tenure. It seems that on Times Now (April 16) and CNN-IBN (April 17), Mr Kher, while engaging in debates with Anand Patwardhan, said:

a. The film was ‘cleared’ while the BJP (NDA) was still the ruling party b. He was personally responsible for ‘clearing’ the film. c. His actions filled me with immense gratitude.

Mr Kher seems to be suffering either from serious memory lapses or is indulging in his age-old affliction of ‘creativitis’, merrily distorting and falsifying facts to score points in a live TV debate. Even though his claims are too ridiculous to be dignified with any response, I do so in the interests of setting the record straight.

(All documents can be seen here:https://www.facebook.com/notes/rakesh-sharma-final-solution-other-films-upcoming-work-and-more/final-solution-censor-ban-ruling-facts-on-record/196593510407145)

Details-at-a-glance:

1. Final Solution was submitted to the CBFC in March-April 2004, while the NDA was in power.

2. Right from the start, CBFC tried to harass the film-maker by raising all sorts of objections concerning the submission of the application itself (eg, ‘improper’ binding of the script, typefaces etc).

3. Ever since its international premiere at the Berlin International film festival on Feb 5, 2004, the film started getting invitations to several filmfests as well as many awards. At Berlinale itself, the film got 2 awards, including the Staudte Award (now known as Golden Bear for Best Debut), which has never gone to a documentary before or ever since.

The CBFC responded by sending two legal notices to the film-maker on matters outside its purview (customs and foreign exchange related violations for international film festival screenings). The CBFC was formally advised that it had no jurisdiction and these notices were malafide.

4. After many representations to CBFC, an Examining Committee was finally convened on July 30, 2004 where the film was denied certifications and thus ‘banned’. Their exact ruling text can be found on the URL above.

5. Apprehending such a possibility, we had requested 2 independent journalists (The Telegraph and Mid-Day) to unobtrusively be present at CBFC (with an asstt director) to observe the entire process. The committee took less than 3 hours to watch the film, hold extensive discussions and then draft a ruling citing all relevant legal provisions therein. The problem: The film was over 3.5 hours long! Both the journalists published details of this sham the next day. I personally wrote to Mr Kher at CBFC on Aug 4, 2004 (letter available on URL above).

6. By this time, at the centre, a UPA government was sworn in following NDA’s defeat in the national elections. I now approached Mr Jaipal Reddy, Minister for I & B, urging him to invoke a rarely-used provision of the Cinematograph Act, to overturn the CBFC’s partisan ruling. In subsequent meetings with him and senior officers of the Ministry, I also demanded stringent action against the CBFC personnel involved in illegal and malfide actions.

7. Following serious protests by the documentary film-makers fraternity, and after the Ministry's own internal inquiries into the episode, Regional Officer Mr Singla was reverted to his parent cadre, permanently removed from the CBFC. Assistant RO Amitabh Sharma was transferred from CBFC, Mumbai to CBFC, Cuttack. As this action was being finalized in Delhi, Mr Kher saw the writing on the wall.

8. He called me and urged me to re-apply; I declined on the grounds that the CBFC had never seen the film in its entirety. Applying to a Revising Committee was tantamount to sanctifying the illegal and partisan proceedings of the earlier committee. One he failed to have me re-apply, Mr Kher took a suo moto decision to convene a special committee, headed by the noted director Shyam Benegal, which cleared the film without a single cut.

9. 4-5 days after this, Mr Kher was summarily sacked by the Government of India. He accused 'documentary film-makers' of orchestrating his removal, strangely claiming credit for clearing my film, while attacking me for my lack of ‘gratitude’. At the time, I rebutted all his claims, even calling his regime one of the worst tenures in the history of CBFC (reported extensively by all leading newspapers in mid Oct, 2004).

I am deeply shocked to find that Mr Kher is once again claiming credit for ‘clearing’ my film in his TV studio discussions! Factually speaking, Mr Kher and his coterie of partisan officers first harassed me, while refusing to schedule the film for a CBFC panel screening. When they finally did so, it was done with utter malintent, hurrying the ban on the film. Mr Kher is believed to have personally called up the Police Commissioner, Bangalore to prevent a public screening of my film as the curtain raiser to the Films for Freedom Festival in Bangalore on July 29, 2004, a day before the CBFC ‘banned’ the film.

If Mr Kher’s conduct as Chairman, CBFC was less than professional and even partisan, his behavior now defies credulity. His rightwing beliefs are too well-documented to bear repetition here. His association with Panun Kashmir and his proximity to the BJP too have been in public realm. His attempts to present himself as some sort of champion of free speech as the CBFC chairman amount to sheer duplicity and dishonesty.

I’d, in fact, prefer him to resort to the truth and proudly claim his role in preventing public screenings of my film as well as denying it a censor certificate through a carefully-planned drama on July 30, 2004.

I do hope you carry this clarification and invite me to rebut the next time Mr Kher is invited!

6

If you remember our earlier appreciative publishing of the indie film Inklab and the interview with Dr. Gaurav Chhabra that followed, we are glad to share that the film was widely appreciated. But once it came to the "real world", it ran into trouble - specifically, trouble with our nitpicking, politically meddling censor board. A censor board that sees nothing in passing item numbers even while evidence of objectification of women in real life is leading to increasing sexual crimes against them. But God forbid an enactment of documented historical facts about national heroes is actually seen by the people without censoring to taste.

Disclosure: Dr. Gaurav Chhabra is a friend and a person I respect for consistently challenging wrongs where he sees them.

Read on:

What came as a rude shock to Chandigarh based director Dr Gaurav Chhabra, the producer of the film InkLab, who was packing his bags for Goa, to attend International Film Festival of India (IFFI) was the letter from Central board of Film Certification India, suggesting at-least 9 cuts in the film thus destroying the whole structure and message of the film InkLab, which is inspired by Shaheed Bhagat Singh's Assembly Bombing case of 1929.

What disturbs him more is that, CBFC has right away kicked out the film from the 'Educational category'. " Film is a direct result of my personal learning in the field of social-activism over last 5 years...and it advocates the use Constitutional tools like Right to information, Freedom of speech, peaceful protests etc for bringing about a holistic social change in society " says the 32 year old doctor turned indie filmmaker and activist.

Chhabra applied for Censor certificate for his film InkLab after some of the film festivals in the country where the film is  an official selection, asked for it as a routine. Chhabra who is already promoting his film as ‘For mature audience only’ straightaway demanded for Adults certificate in his application to CBFC. “The film documents the casual talks of two university students on corruption and other prevalent issues of today in a natural flow…and at places there is use of strong language and symbolism, so I myself responsibly opted for Adult certification… but unfortunately even that is denied”

This hour long Avant-garde film made in Cinema-Verite style, produced in Chandigarh in March this year, is a story of a young rebellious PhD fellow who has gone missing and police is investigating the case with the help of his close friend and professors. The film is shown as if been put together from the footage of video and mobile camera of this friend.

The film incidentally is shot at the Historic Dwaarka Das Library in Chandigarh, which is post-partition restoration of the library at Lahore where Shaheed Bhagat Singh used to spend a lot of time reading books on Russian, Irish revolutions and socialism.

Confronting the cuts prescribed by the CBFC and calling them uncalled for and invalid, the Doc says " The cuts prescribed by the CBFC chop off selectively the talks about corruption in politics. These talks represent average discussions on contemporary news, among today’s youth. Chopping such scenes is only in the interest of ‘corrupt politicians’ and not in interest of ‘Politics’ and public in general "

As the story unfolds the film primarily touches the topics of:  Corruption, Right to Information Act, Social equality, Debate on nuclear power, Debate on Genetically Modified food, Development issues, Freedom of Speech, Naxalism, Role of Independent media in society. Film also bring forth the core idea of Social equality as envisioned by Shaheed  Bhagat  Singh and educates the audience about the reason behind Assembly bombing case of 1929 and how ‘Long live revolution’doesn’t mean constant turbulence  in the society but rather a just and peaceful society.

The film focuses on the fact that today even if youth are fighting for ‘their rights’ all around the world, the marginalized groups are still neglected by them and voice of poor is still oppressed. But however even after 80 years of the Martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, his idea of Freedom and social-economic equality is being suppressed.

CBFC has asked to chop off the scene where the protagonist is trying to make homemade fire-works/non-lethal bombs in his kitchen and then trying it at his room.

"CBFC grossly missed the historical context of the film, where protagonist talks about Bhagat Singh’s Assembly bomb case. The protagonist being a rational, inquisitive and  scientific person tries for himself everything before he actually decides to apply it or not. Explosives made by Bhagat Singh were home made too and this film simply reflects the same thing via the protagonist. There are thousand plus recipes to make bombs on Internet, just in case they are worried that this film teaches public about making bombs. Until the reason behind the Assembly bombing of 1929 is shown, any uninformed person would call the valiant act of Freedom fighters a violent act. “ tells the director doc who in in last five years has bagged various national and international awards for his short films and social activism.


In 1929, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, a young Indian Freedom fighter and a contemporary of a better-known figure Mahatma Gandhi, threw non-lethal bombs in Central Legislative assembly to protest against the draconian laws being passed by the British Govt. He was arrested and later executed at the young age of 23.

“ The name InkLab stands for Lab of Ink.. lab of thoughts.. and means that one should not just apply any ideology which has been passed on to him just because it has been existing and is prevalent. Film tells that one should experiments with the ideas before one actually applies them in social life. To doubt, to question is a scientific approach .. and this film is about having a scientific and sensitive approach to the theme of Revolution and social” says Chhabra, who has refused to take any cuts for his film and will stand by the Director’s cut alone.

Dr Chhabra's earlier earlier films have won awards at W.H.O.'s Global Health film award in 2007 in Switzerland, Green Apple Award 2010 for Environment films in U.S.A , We care Film Festival, Delhi among many others. InkLab is submitted to around 3 dozens film festivals across the globe and has been selected in all the three festivals, that have declared the results - International Film Festival of Ahmedabad, IFFI, Goa, and Third Eye Asian Film Festival, Mumbai. The denial of Censor certifications doesn’t seem to deter the spirits of this indie filmmaker who believes in the power of youth and new media and positively believes that the film will find its way to the deserving audience in one way or the other.

"The true test of Freedom of speech in a democracy comes only when someone makes Speech of Freedom..and CBFC has time and again failed in that! Passing vulgar scenes and baseless abuses and violence is definitely not a sign of boldness or Freedom of speech but of misplaced priorities and challenged sensibilities of the board members " signs off the doctor, who has made available the film for free private viewing for mature audience at the official websitewww.inklabmovie.com

The tagline on the film's official website and the posters itself reads: ' In the digital age, where megabyte is the new dynamite and power of ideas & connectivity cannot be ignored, this is an experiment in the Lab of thoughts – Ink Lab. '