Film fraternity writes letter of appeal to government to change film law

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MUMBAI: The government’s proposal to change the film law is another blow to the film fraternity and will potentially endanger free speech and democratic dissent, says a letter signed by industry insiders such as Vishal Bhardwaj, Mira Nair and Pa Ranjith. The letter, with more than 3,000 signatories, will be sent to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Friday. The ministry has asked the general public to send their comments on the bill by July 2.

On June 18, the Center had solicited public comments on the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 which proposes to sanction the pirating of films with a prison sentence and a fine, to introduce a certification based on age and empower the central government to order the recertification of an already certified film. film after receiving complaints.

The letter says the proposed amendments would make filmmakers “powerless against the state because they are more vulnerable to threats, vandalism and intimidation from Mafia censors.”

“As another blow to the film fraternity, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has proposed new amendments to the Film Law under which the central government would have the power to revoke or revoke the certification of films. which have already been approved by the Censor Board, ”the letter reads.

“By undermining the sovereignty of the Censor Board and the Supreme Court, this provision will effectively give the central government supreme power over film exploitation in the country, potentially endangering freedom of expression and democratic dissent,” he adds.

The signatories of the letter include filmmakers, actors, filmmakers and writers from across the country such as Anurag Kashyap, Vetri Maaran, Farhan Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Hansal Mehta, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Rohini Hattangadi as well as prominent names from Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada Cinema, Assamese and Bengali.

These include Rajeev Ravi, Venu, Lijo Jose Pellimery, Balaji Tharaneetharan, Thiagarajan Kumararaja, Fowzia Fathima, Jayathirtha BV, Supriyo Sen, Suman Mukhopadyay and Bhaskar Hazarika.

Film collectives such as Ektara Collective and Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), also signed the letter.

Filmmaker Prateek Vats, one of those who drafted the statement, said the proposal to give the power of review to the Union government would be a “bad step” and the letter was an attempt by the industry. cinematographic to record his participation.

“… you decrease confidence in the institutional body that is the CBFC. It is important that the film fraternity voice their concerns and make their suggestions,” said Vats.

In April of this year, the government decided to abolish the Film Certification Appeals Tribunal (FCAT), a statutory body set up to hear appeals from filmmakers aggrieved by cuts suggested by the Central Film Certification Council. .

The tribunal was helpful to administrators who were looking for a time-bound solution if they were not satisfied with the censorship committee’s decision.

The proposal to amend the Film Law comes two months after the Center dissolved the Film Certification Appeals Tribunal (FCAT) in April 2021.

“Now filmmakers unhappy with the Censor Board’s decision have no choice but to appeal to the High Courts bearing the representation legal costs and financial losses due to potential delays in film releases until for the overburdened court system to look into the case, ”the letter reads.

The letter also lists suggestions for the I&B department.

He said the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 should clearly define the role of the CBFC as a body that certifies the content of films for public viewing and not as a censorship body.

“We recommend that the amendments giving the central government the power to revoke a film certificate should be dropped. We agree with the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling which held that this would violate the separation of powers in our democracy, ”the letter reads.

While film piracy poses real challenges for filmmakers, the proposed amendments do not effectively address this concern simply by introducing criminal provisions, the document said.

“Systemic solutions to truly combat piracy must be introduced,” the letter suggested.

According to the letter, the filmmakers also recommend that the FCAT be reinstated, as it allows “affordable and accessible remedies for filmmakers.”

On Monday, actor filmmaker Kamal Haasan said on Twitter that people should speak out for “freedom and liberty”.

“The cinema, the media and the literate cannot afford to be the three iconic monkeys of India. Seeing, hearing and talking about impending evil is the only medicine against attempts to undermine and weaken democracy.

“Please act, express your concern for freedom and liberty. @MIB_India # cinematographact2021 #raiseyourvoice,” he wrote.

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