A documentary film about protests against two Coca-Cola plants in Mehendigunj has been denied a censor certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification.
A film cannot be publicly exhibited in Indian without being passed by the CBFC.
The documentary — titled Charlie and the Coca Cola Company — has been made by Jharana Jhaveri and Anurag Singh, under the Janmadhyam Productions banner.
A 12-minute trailer for the film, released on YouTube in February last year, depicts the protests at Mehendigunj, about 40 km from Varanasi.
As speakers talk about how the cola company is "stealing" their water, and protest that progress should be for everyone, not just the corporate elite, the police cracks down on the hundreds gathered there, dispersing them from the spot.
In a post shared on Facebook, the filmmakers stated that the CBFC apparently took the decision to not pass the film back in May.
Jhaveri and Singh were apprised of the decision in a letter from the Board received only this month.
The reason for refusing certification to the documentary is stated in one line: "The film, more than education, is misleading and political motive [sic]. Hence the film is not passed in its present form".
The CBFC's decision has caused consternation to filmmakers who state that under the Cinematograph Act of 1952, concerns over a film's political content are not included as a reason to deny certification.
The Cinematograph Act of 1952 states that:
"A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of [the sovereignty and integrity of India] the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or involves defamation or contempt of court or is likely to incite the commission of any offence."
It isn't clear which part of this mandate the CBFC believed Charlie and the Coca Cola Company was breaching.
As per the guidelines, the film's makers can now approach the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal to contest the CBFC's decision. If the FCAT doesn't rule in their favour, they can also approach the High Court.
In the meantime, the Charlie and the Coca Cola Company team has shared the first part of their documentary on their Facebook page: