No screening for ‘Inshallah, Football’?
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A still from ‘Inshallah, Football’ and the exemption fax

This is what the Censor Board of Film Certification told Ashvin Kumar, he says, when he wanted to screen his award winning film, ‘Inshallah, Football’ in India.
Just a month after Ashvin Kumar’s film based on Doon school was reportedly banned by the school authorities, another movie by the Oscar nominated filmmaker seems to have been embargoed by the Censor Board of Film Certification. “Inshallah, Football” – that premiered at the Pusan International Film Festival and bagged a Special Mention award at the recently concluded Dubai International Film Festival – a film that probes the pent-up anger of a Kashmiri boy when he is denied a passport by the government, because he is the son of an ex-militant – has been banned by the CBFC, says Ashvin. The reason? The film shows the Indian government in a poor light.

Ashvin had faced similar trouble when last month, the CBFC initially denied permission for a private screening of this film. “A few days ahead of the screening, I got a call from the Censor Board saying that I can’t screen the film without their permission,” recalls Ashvin. “I told them it’s a private screening, and that I already have an NOC from the I&B ministry. Also, I’d not sent any application to the CBFC to watch/approve my film. Why am I supposed to get a sanction, then?” asks Ashvin. Nevertheless, CBFC CEO Pankaja Thakur flew to Delhi from Mumbai on November 1 (a day before the screening), just to watch his film.

On that occasion, we were granted permission to screen the film, provided we added a disclaimer in the beginning that stated, ‘The views expressed therein are that of the filmmaker’. We were also assured that certification will now only be a formality. So within a week, I sent an application to the CBFC,” says Ashvin. But on Wednesday morning, the filmmaker was baffled by a call from the Board stating the film has been referred to a revision panel, and that it has not been passed for release in India. “I was just told it is critical of the Indian government and is one-sided. Pankaja told me her earlier assurance was her personal view and that the final views were of the panel,” says Ashvin, adding, “It’s every citizen’s right to express and highlight aspects of our democracy, governance and society in a free and open manner.”

When contacted, Sharmila Tagore said, “The CBFC cannot ban a film, only the government of India can. And I’m not sure who called up Ashvin on behalf of the CBFC. Yes, Pankaja saw the film ahead of its November 2 Delhi screening, and approved the film. But we are supposed to show the film to a senior panel. The panel has disagreed with the film, but this is not CBFC’s point of view in totality. This is part of the process. Since Pankaja is saying that there is nothing in the film that is not known to the public, I am constituting a Revision Committee (RC) so that they can watch the film and reach a conclusion. I have not seen the film myself yet, but since Pankaja has, and after me, she is the highest authority in the CBFC, I believe her stand, which is that the film should be passed. I cannot speculate what the RC’s point of view will be, but they will most probably go with Pankaja’s advice. Most probably, Ashvin will be asked to give a disclaimer that the film shows only the filmmaker’s perspective. Had there been a problem, we would’ve sent him a written document – which we haven’t.”

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