After CBFC, now the producer acts as film censor

CBFC’s questionable role notwithstanding, the producer of the film ‘Anaarkali of Aarah’ exercises his ‘right’ to make further cuts and gets into a public spat with the director

Photo courtesy: Facebook
Photo courtesy: Facebook

Pragati Saxena

Who has the right over a film? Is it the producer, the director or the writer? And once the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) certifies a film and ensures the cuts it desires, can a producer or a TV channel retain the right to screen a film with more and arbitrary cuts unilaterally?

The questions threaten to reach the law courts after an ugly public spat between the director and producer of the acclaimed feature film Anaarkali of Aarah, Avinash Das and Sandiip Kapur. The film was released earlier this year amidst controversy when the CBFC permitted its release after several cuts and with an Adult (A) certificate.

But Das claims to have been taken aback when TV channel Star Gold Select screened the film on Saturday. He claims to have found the film being screened badly and ruthlessly mutilated, much beyond what the CBFC had done before the film was released. An annoyed Das took to social media and asked his friends and followers to switch off their television sets and not watch the film. He feared people would be disappointed with the mutilated film.

While the producer had invested in the film and had distribution rights, he argued, the creative rights belonged to him as the story, script and direction were by him. The producer, he argued, had no business to make changes without taking him into confidence. Surely, the producer could have involved him in the exercise if he wanted to make further cuts prior to screening the film on Television?

The producer Sandiip Kapur of Promodome Communications Pvt Ltd was quick to respond to the director’s social media post and threatened to sue him for defamation.

“You shall soon get a notice from Star Gold for the derogatory manner in which you have written about the film and advised audiences to not watch the film. This is clearly an attempt to sabotage the commercial success of the telecast and both Star and us shall see you in the court regarding this,” his email read.

Kapur did not stop at that. He went on to threaten virtually a trade boycott of Das, who is based in Mumbai. “We are also putting out a notice in trade magazines on this issue and will ensure that producers are forewarned about you before they even think about engaging with you, forget about doing any work with you,” the email added.

Das stuck to his stand. He was against ‘arbitrary, random censorship’, especially after the CBFC had already censored the film and allowed its release. He had asked people not to watch the censored film, which cannot amount to defamation. Nor had he blamed anyone, said Das when NH reached out to him.

A CBFC member, he confided, had called him up after watching the film on Star Gold Select and enquired why the production team had decided to ruin it. He, Das claimed, added that the CBFC would have given it a Universal (‘U’) certificate with far fewer cuts , possibly with 10 per cent of the cuts that the producer enforced before screening it on the TV channel.

Das sees no justification for the CBFC acting as a censor board either. Vocal on the issue, he had earlier complained that the CBFC had no business to suggest cuts, that all it could do was to give the certificate it deemed appropriate.

He had also aired his view that it was unethical of Sandiip Kapur as the producer to write a letter of apology to the CBFC, again without taking him into confidence.

Kapur, however, reminded Das that as per the agreement signed by him, his services were merely ‘hired’ and he as the producer retained all the rights.

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Published: 01 Aug 2017, 1:08 PM
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