“The idea in making a film is to challenge the status quo”

Talking Cinematograph Act amendments with Shilpi Gulati, Sahana Manjesh and Prateek Vats


Namrata Joshi

July 2 was the last date for the public to send their response to Union Government’s proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act of 1952. Among other proposals, the major issue of concern here has been the fact that under it the Central Government would have the power to revoke or recall certification of films which have already been cleared by the Censor Board.

Last week a small group of young filmmakers, academics and lawyers—Shilpi Gulati, Sahana Manjesh, Prateek Vats, Bhargav Rani and Mani Chander—drafted a response to the Ministry of I&B highlighting these concerns, in addition to commenting on various other sections of the proposed bill. The document has subsequently been endorsed by close to 6500 signatories across the Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu and Assamese film industries, amongst others, and was submitted to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. A first list of 3,583 signatories was mailed on 1st July 2021 along with the submissions, and an additional list of 2,911 signatories was sent on 2nd July 2021, even as more endorsements are pouring in from across the country.

The group has also requested the Ministry to extend the deadline to at least the 18th of July 2021 to facilitate further consultations on the proposed amendments. This could enable more people, guilds and associations to formulate and submit informed suggestions. “At a time when films and filmmaking are trying to adapt to the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, it is a true mark of the spirit of solidarity to see so many diverse filmmakers, technicians and actors come together at such short notice. It is also a testament to the fact that the fundamental right to free speech and expression remains a cherished and deeply guarded right. Veteran filmmakers, across regions, stand shoulder to shoulder with young filmmakers, as do so many lovers of cinema from various walks of life. Here’s hoping that we continue this spirited engagement with the process,” says their statement.

National Herald caught up with three members of the group—filmmaker-academic Shilpi Gulati, filmmaker Prateek Vats and lawyer Sahana Manjesh—for a deeper understanding of the issue of amendments and to discuss censorship and freedom of speech and expression. Our takeaway from the interaction was the statement by Vats: “The idea in making a film is to challenge status quo”.

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