The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), commonly referred to as the Censor Board, recently got a rap on its knuckles when the High Court cleared the way for Balaji Motion Pictures in association with Phantom Films’ Udta Punjab - the film which finally climbed all hurdles to release on its appointed day.
But the irregularities in CBFC are far from over. It has been mired in the controversy of easy availability of fake or duplicate censor certificates for more than a year now. It’s a known fact that many small time producers resort to fake censor certificates when there is a delay in the issue of certificates to their films, ad films, songs or trailers for different reasons, or possibly to save the money spent on certifying the film. Apparently, there is no cross-checking and such films with duplicate certificates can easily find their way to theatres.
This was brought to the notice of CBFC chairman, Pahlaj Nihalani by Pravin Mohare, a film agent, over a year ago. In fact, it was with the help of a duplicate certificate that Mohare, who worked with producers by way of helping them procure the necessary censor certificates required for any film to release theatrically, had ousted Rakesh Kumar, former CBFC CEO sometime in August 2014 and was lauded for his efforts then. Mohare had worked with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and recorded evidence of Rakesh Kumar accepting a bribe of Rs 50,000 from him to facilitate the process. The CBFC had immediately suspended Rakesh Kumar and he was also arrested by CBI.
At that time, Mohare had been in the business for about a decade and was reportedly earning around Rs one lakh a month. But now, for over a year, Mohare, whose entry in CBFC office was “unofficially” stopped, is out of job. Since May last, fellow agents and producers shied away from Mohare, who claims to have facilitated in the certification of about 6,000 films so far with 15 producers giving him work. He was denied access at the CBFC’s office by blocking his film producer facilitator ID.
He has been earning his living by way of selling vegetables, trying his hands at acting and at times issuing fake censor certificates which he has been openly talking about for more than a year. Last March, he had issued about 25 duplicate censor certificates to regional movies, trailers, promos and advertisements to prove his point to Nihalani that how a film can be released with the help of a duplicate certificate but the authorities, he says, turned a deaf year to the problem. "And since then I was forced to issue about 100 fake censor certificates to earn my living," says the agent.
While Nihalani, who took over as the CBFC chairman in January 2015, had claimed last May that he has informed the CBI about Mohare running a racket of issuing duplicate censor certificates to film producers, latter was least perturbed. ‘It's a known fact that I'd issued 20 to 25 fake certificates for few feature films, ad films, promos and trailers when their certifications were getting delayed and my purpose was also to expose the loopholes in the system. It’s very simple to make a duplicate certificate and there is no cross-checking as well. Everybody in CBFC and the producers know about it. I've given interviews to news channels on this and have been continuing with my work in the CBFC all this while. Why didn't Nihalani take action against me then?’ he said this sometime last March.
When contacted, the CBFC CEO, Anurag Srivastava says that he's aware of the menace of fake censor certificates and that they would be introducing the online system of film certification which apparently is being planned for about three years now. Says Srivastava, “Yes, we are aware of the films being released with fake censor certificates and hence we will be starting the process of certification online by this year-end. This will curb the problem of forged certification.”
But why are certain filmmakers indulging in forged certification? “I don’t know, that the filmmakers will be able to tell you. There is certainly no delay in certification happening from our end. Mostly censor certificates get delayed because of the delay from the filmmakers’ side. Sometimes DVDs don’t reach us on time whereas they have already booked theatres. We have to issue certificates in maximum 68 days and we usually take 10 to 12 days on an average except for rare cases when films go to tribunal. We have now speeded up the process. We want to eliminate fake certificates at the earliest. Sometimes there can be a delay for whatever reasons and if people resort to fake certificates, I don’t know if that is the right choice,” says Srivastava.
However, Vijay Dhor, a film producer says that he got the censor certificate for his film, Ek Thi Kaya (in the horror genre) in six to seven months. “I had applied in May last whereas I got the certificate in November. Yes, there was some delay on my side, too, but CBFC is not a very responsible body. Once they misplaced my file and took one month to find it. ”
He further adds, “There is so much favouritism. There are so many instances where CBFC doesn’t use its scissors on big banner films whereas for my A certified film they have given so many cuts even as the scenes are not as bold as we see in certain big budget films in the same genre. I had to go through so much harassment that now I don’t intend making another film in my lifetime.”
Srivastava, however, counters the favouritism theory, “In fact, it’s the other way round. Usually there is more probability of big banner films getting more cuts as they would aim at a U/A certificate to earn more revenue.”
Meanwhile, Mohare, who claims that he has been fighting for his small time producers, has now decided to take legal course. “After applying for certification, the film is previewed by the examining committee. But instead of showing the film in four days, it would be shown after 10 days. And whoever gives the money, their work is done faster while others who don’t, their work gets delayed. When the release is coming up, who would fight for all this? Didn’t Anurag Kashyap and the Udta Punjab team go to court recently and the certificate was issued in two days? What about my producers? They are all small time producers, they don’t have enough resources to fight and hence I was fighting for them,” says the agent, further adding, “Since piracy is a big issue, I had also informed Nihalani about the pirated DVDs with duplicate certificates available in the market, but he didn’t take it seriously. ‘You have taken care of corruption, now don’t do leadership’, he once told me.”
Incidentally, Mohare says, the CBI is yet to return the sum of Rs 50,000 to him that was used to nab Rakesh Kumar, despite repeated attempts by him to get it back.
It was supposed to have been returned within 45-60 days, he says. “When CBFC stopped giving me work I went to CBI couple of times early this year to get my money back but I was told that the chargesheet against Rakesh Kumar is still not submitted and that I may get my money after a year or two. I had trusted them and I had not taken from them in writing,” says Mohare, who has approached an activist lawyer to fight his case in court to get his job as well as his money (used for nabbing Rakesh Kumar) back.
However, according to Srivastava, “That case (concerning Rakesh Kumar) is still on but it can’t be said who was guilty.”