Wednesday, 17 January 2018

│2018: A WARNING│


Tell the Nation What It Ought To Know

India has been witness to some of the most game- changing transformations, as well as some horrific aberrations in the past few years. Their dissemination has been fueled mainly through technology.
The outlook, vision and expectation of it’s 1.3 billion citizens has also changed. From being happy to get road access to their town, Indians now want super highways, dotted with amenities and wifi connectivity.
It’s internet thirsty population wants to guzzle data which would put the mighty Kumbhakarna to shame. This insatiable thirst for connectivity has led to increased awareness, about both the good and the bad things happening in India and it’s a telling sign how Indians have reacted to this:
  1. India is fed up with tolerance. No longer is India ready for appeasement of minorities, appeasement of the enemy, appeasement of Netas and Babus . This is a new and impatient society, which wonders W.T.F. was going on for the past 75 years after independence. International exposure has created a feeling of resentment in the minds of the youth, as to why their country refuses to wake up and smell the coffee.
  2. Indians are now fed up of pretending to be humble for the sake of decency.
  3. They are ready for challenges and to test the waters of uncertainty and technology.
  4. They are not afraid to ask questions from their Governments and not lazy to stay at home and watch TV on election-day.
  5. They are fed up with “respecting” the politicians by virtue of their title and dynastic inheritance and want to know what efforts are they putting in, 24/7 at the click of a button.
  6. The Government at the Centre rode this wave of India’s new expectations. In fact any Government in power in India, even those in the States, are aware of these realities and expectations. They are now compelled to appear to either deliver, or chose to ignore these realities at their own peril, at the expense of being voted out.

Amongst all this, the role of the media has become all powerful and almost all pervasive.

In this era of Alt News, Fake News, Post Truth, and Big Data, powered by the social media, it’s all the more important for the media to not get lured by the temptations of click-bait, TRPs and viral viewership. It’s extremely important to ensure that accurate reporting and Principles of Journalism are not compromised. They must ensure that any news is given its due importance but not sensationalized at the altar of reporting all the facts.
This is particularly important on account of the fact that India will be holding its National General elections sometime next year which creates the real danger of the media becoming mere tools to vested interests. Hence it is all the more important for the media to maintain its vigil both on others and on itself. The institution of the media now faces the toughest challenge – of not only maintaining the focus on facts and objectivity, but also appearing to do so.
Twitter profile image of Chandan Nandy
Chandan Nandy Twitter Profile Image
With this background it has been worthwhile to note with dismay that the media has already made an impetuous leap into the nadirs of opprobrium within the first 2 weeks of the New Year, aptly justifying the trolls from whom they have earned the titles of “prestitutes” and “baazaaru".
  • The first incident was related to the publishing of story in The Quint on 5th January 2018, which claimed that Kulbhushan Jadhav was a RAW agent,Quint article Jadhav who was caught red handed on account of his being incompetent. It detailed out accounts of senior officials of RAW regarding Jadhav. While the story was subsequently retracted, it was readily picked up by the Pakistani Media. Raghav Bahl’s The Quint published this story under the title, ‘Two Former Raw Chiefs Did Not Want Kulbhushan Jadhav Recruited As A Spy.’ After retraction, the story currently states,’ The Quint is Rechecking the Kulbhushan Jadhav Story.’ 
The story socially engaged more than 50000 users on the internet. Besides the shameful aspect of irresponsible reporting, the brazenness of the media continues through the following:
  • Quint refuses to apologize and accept that it made a mistake. It still continues to maintain that it is “recheckingquint rechecking jadhav article some of the information mentioned in the article.”

  • The author of the story Mr.ChandanNandy,(@NandyGram) continues to maintain that he did the right thing by using vague terms such as “unnamed sources” to  support his claim instead of hard evidence.

  • Instead he chose to go into hiding after causing so much damage and spreading falsehoods.

  • The impudence continued as apart from a few websites, the mainstream media chose to either glance over or ignore the issue altogether

  • The effrontery conduct of the Indian media was again there for the world to witness when a group of senior journalists (including Senior Journalist Dipankar Nandi of Aajkal News,Deobash Bhattacharya of Anand Bajar Patrika– ABP NEWS) accompanying West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in an official tour to London, attempted to steel silverware at an official dinner in a luxury hotel in London.
  • They did so by stuffing the cutlery into their bags or pockets. This was in the presence of several dignitaries from both India and the UK, including politicians and industrialists.
  • The entire episode was caught on CCTV.
  • When confronted by security, the discomfited journalists returned the cutlery with the exception of one senior journalist who had to be threatened with a police complaint, which finally led him to confess. He was let off with the minor fine of 50 pounds.
  • Interestingly the British mainstream media chose to completely expurgate this episode in their reporting.
  • The Indian media has concealed the names of most of the journalists, the hotel and other specific details.
The Indian Media, which is normally so touchy about censorships of movies such as Padmaavat, imposed a virtual embargo on the amount of information flowing on the above matters.

This is all the more perturbing on account of the recent unprecedented event in India’s history, when 4 Judges of India’s Supreme Court decided to rely on the media to take internal matters of the Supreme Court’s functioning into the public domain.

By holding a press conference, they not only jeopardized the institution of the Judiciary, but ensured its fall from grace by relying on an institution (the media) which is struggling to retain its sanctity.
As a first step towards reform, the media houses must shed their ignorance regarding the awareness levels and intelligence of the people who watch or read the news. Unlike their gullible Corporate sponsors and industrialists, whom they fool and threaten on a regular basis with TRPs and concocted Twitter Hashtag counts, the common man is far more aware and discerning. They should realise that the reader tolerates the advertisements in the hope and faith that in return, the media is providing credible, uncensored information and analysis.
The flawed argument that if you don’t like it, don’t watch it, may free them of their responsibility to the profession of journalism, but effectively amounts to a breach of trust the millions of citizens and our Constitution has placed in them, by attempting to guarantee their independence.
It is pointless to support the independence of an institution which is willingly prostituting itself to the slavery of economic gains and influence.
Since the media is so reluctant, let me assist them by informing them what the viewer already knows as a New Year Gift regarding a few TV channels:
  • NDTV , AVP news, are sold out to the Congress and CPI.
  • Republic TV ,Zee TV and Times Now are sold out to the BJP.
  • India Today and CNN IBN are sold out to whichever pays the most.
So evident is the prejudice, that several political parties/politicians have boycotted certain T.V. channels altogether. The anchors like Arnab Goswami, Nidhi Razdan, Ravish Kumar, Rahul Kanwal, Rajdeep Sardesai, Bhupendra Chaubey,Zakka Jacob and Rahul Shivshankar (the list is not exhaustive, although this "Hall Of Shame" keeps expanding) have reduced themselves from the position of ferociously independent guardians of democratic values to pimps of industrialists, celebrities and politicians.
To these anchors I say, people see through your fa├žade of righteousness, your manipulative loaded questions,your irrelevant hashtags promoted through fake profiles, your flashy lens flares and your self gloating really rotten red tickers proclaiming you as the Number 1 channel and the pathetic way you attempt to tilt the balance of opinion in someone’s favor,the way you raise your voice laying pointless irrelevant accusations and then scoot into an ad break to the next senseless innuendo you call NEWS.
The corrupt and the fraudsters are no longer embarrassed by your questions and allegations and seem to be enjoying themselves on your show, on account of their awareness that you are as soaked in the filth of selfishness and betrayal to India, as the rest of them.
The horror of the precision of your repetitive concocted melodramatic, disseminating filtered facts with your own biased spins on every event occurring on this planet was shocking at first but mind numbing now.
It’s this rotten realization that your misconduct is spawning a society where people have either stopped trusting your institution or stopped caring that has the potential to plunge the country into the murky depths of anarchy.
This blog is therefore a warning to the media. Get your act together this crucial year.2018 will witness unprecedented events.There may be many incidents of fires, train derailments, rapes and lynching, keeping in mind the elections in various states this year, leading upto the General Elections next year. You will be lured by unprecedented opportunities, which will test your conscience to the limits. On such occasions, be bold, be fearless, be ruthlessly unshakeable and unbiased, be our moral compass, be our guardians, be the guardians of India’s true narrative. You may be penalised/trolled/rebuked for short while, but the viewers will thank you and be with you forever.
I would like to end the blog on a positive note by praising the brilliant and courageous work done by Journalist Rachna Khaira of The Tribune.She exposed how easily one could get illegal access to the demographic AADHAAR data of 1.19 billion residents of India for an amount as little as Rs.500/-. The same data, which the UIDAI claimed was completely secure and leak proof. In a typical Sarkari response, instead of owning up and conducting a high level inquiry, an FIR was filed against her. It is her response which is most impressive,”I think I have earned this FIR.”
Rachna and the team at The Tribune will most likely have to pay a price for this. It won’t be surprising to read about NIA/IT/ED raids on their affiliates or offices. It would demonstrate a mature Government if that doesn’t happen.

Its not important whether the data leaked was sensitive enough or not. What’s noteworthy is the fact that she broke the arrogance of the Government who were operating under delusions of grandeur. What’s important is that the Government would now be compelled to be shaken out of its apathy. That it would have to remain on its toes, to deliver, lest some brave, unswerving journalist may expose any lapses in their functioning.
Rachna Khaira and the team at The Tribune never shouted on anyone on Prime Time, but gave the most hard hitting slap on the faces of the custodians of power who were sleeping under the impression that the entire media had been either purchased or intimidated or alienated. She didn’t tell anyone what the Nation Wants To Know , but what the Nation Ought To Know.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Film Padmavati :Censor Board Perspective

Film Padmavati : The Censor Board Perspective


The resolution of the controversy surrounding the film Padmavati has[i], for the time being been put, the Censor Board Chairman, Prasoon Joshi in the spotlight. What probably makes it perplexing for Prasoon is the feeling both from the Bhansali camp and those opposing the movie, is that he is on their side. What must be going on in the minds of those deciding the fate of the movie and consequently India’s law and order scenario? Before we try to delve into the minds of the Censor Board, here is a brief look at water which has already flown under the bridge:
It’s not for us to pass judgement,but worthwhile to examine the rules and try to understand their extent of compliance. The Censor Board should ideally rely on 2 documents – The Cinematograph Act of 1952 and the Cinematograph Certification Rules of 1983.
The clauses of these acts which the Director/ Producer of Padamvati film has already apparently violated are :
1. Advertisement of the movie without CBFC certificate:
According to Rule 38[ii] (CBFC) of Cinematograph (Certification) Rules 1983 any person advertising a film by means of insertion in newspapers, hoarding, posters, handbills or trailers shall indicate the category of certification. Non- compliance of this rule will be a cognizable and non-bail able offence under section 7 of Cinematograph Act 1952
We see so many YouTube trailers of Padmavati which are in violation of this rule, i.e. advertising without indicating the category of certification. Although to be fair, such promotional trailers have been released for several(almost all?) movies. But the Government could do well to either amend the rule or penalize the producers/ directors in accordance with the law.

2. Exhibition of Films without CBFC Certificate:
Rule (relevant extract):
The following are the major violations that agitate the minds of the public:
c. exhibition of a film in a form other than the one in which it was certified. Such violations are known as interpolations.
Interpolations can be described as follows.. of films without CBFC certificate.
Bhansali and company appear to be in violation of exhibiting the film to certain sections of the media without CBFC certificate. The penalty of such violations are mentioned hereunder :
Violations of Cinematograph act and penalties:
1.Offences with regard to violations of certification provisions are cognizable. Furthermore, they are non-bailable.
…3.A person guilty of violation while exhibiting celluloid films is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to Three years, or with fine which may extend to Rs.1/-lakh, or with both, and with a further fine up to Rs.20,000 for each day for a continuing offence.
Furthermore, the trial court can direct that the offending film be forfeited to the Government.
3. The place where the movie is exhibited also needs to be licenced
The Cinematograph Act of 1952, Part III, mentions that the Cinematograph exhibitions to be licenced. Elaborating this in clause 10 it is clearly mentioned that no person shall give an exhibition by means of a cinematograph[iii] elsewhere than in a place licenced under this Part or otherwise than in compliance with any conditions and restrictions imposed by such licence.
So one wonders where Arnab Goswami, Zaka Jacob and Rajat Sharma went to watch the movie.
To answer the question as to why Bhansali hasn’t been arrested already, the Censor board relies on the State Government and Union Territory Administrations for the enforcement[iv] of such rules, since exhibition of films is a State subject.
Why have the State Governments not initiated action against those responsible for screening an uncertified movie?
Pahlaj Nihalani, the erstwhile Censor Board Chief has also termed the Censor Board Certificate granted by the British Board of Film Classification “illegal[v]. According to him it was illegal to export a film prior to certification from the country of origin.

If the CBFC choses to act objectively in deciding the fate of the movie, it faces several challenges, both from external factors and from within.
The challenge comes from the wordings of the Act itself.
Clause 3(1) of the Cinematographic (Certification) rules 1983 states that a member of the Board shall hold office during the pleasure of the Central Government. The same holds true for members of the advisory panel. ((Clause 8 (1)) .While this may be necessary to ensure law and order, this leaves the autonomy of the board vulnerable to the whims of any dispensation. Similarly one can’t be assured of any decision remaining within the limits of objectivity, with a person whose business interests are embedded in fields related to the Film Industry.
A table on the home page of the CBFC website[vi] provides timelines for the various processes of certifications as per Rule 41 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952:-
Time Limit
Scrutiny of Applications
7 Days
Formation of Examining Committee
15 days
Forwarding the EC Report to Chairman
10 days
Communication of the order to the applicant
3 days
Surrender of cuts by the producer
14 days
Examination of cuts
14 days
Issue of Certificate
5 days
Total Time Limit
68 days
It has been apparently incorrectly reported that 68 days is the outer time limit for any certification. Clause 41 of the Act clearly mentions that once a movie has been referred to the Examining Committee, it may (41.4.a) find it necessary to have the shooting script scrutinized or have the authenticity of the incidents depicted in a film of historical, mythological, biographical or legendary nature verified. For this a provisional report is submitted by the regional officer to the Chairman within a maximum of 3 working days after such examination. Thereafter, the Chairman has to consider the report and issue an order on the provisional report. (41.4.b.), following which a written communication is issued to the applicant who then has to submit the script or authentic sources on which the subject of his film is based within 10 days of receipt of such communication. This shall be scrutinized by the examining officer (41.4.d.) and final report of the Examining Committee is forwarded to the Chairman within 10 days of the receipt of script or authentic sources.
Alternatively, the Examining Committee, in their Provisional Report to the Chairman may also indicate that an expert opinion be sought on subjects relating to defence, foreign relations, any particular religion, law, medicine or any other subject. In such a case, the Chairman may specify a time limit for obtaining such expert opinion for the submission of the final report of the Examination Committee.(41.4.d)
Instead of taking 13 days (As per the table for stage 3 and 4) by the Examining Committee, the time taken (even in the normal course appears to be 10+10+3=23days) can be much more particularly in the case of movies like Padmavati, where a committee of experts may be called in to ratify the contents. The table specifying the time period of 68 days also does not appear to consider the additional time required if the matter is sent to the Revising Committee.
Furthermore, the term “days” is misleading. It is specified in the Act that In calculating the periods specified in this rule working days alone shall be taken into account and Sundays and other holidays shall be excluded.

Prasoon Joshi may be assisted by the formation of an “expert committee”[vii] including historians. But his dilemma in this case is further convoluted by the fact that opinions of several “experts” are already biased in favour of Bhansali’s version.[viii]
As per a Government of India Ministry of Information and broadcasting notification dated 6th December 1991, the Central Government directed the CBFC to be guided by following certain principles in sanctioning films. The first part – objectives of the film certification, clause 1a,1b and 1c, can perplex the soundest of judicial minds, on account of their mandating principles which are literally the opposing ends of the spectrum.
1(a) states that the CBFC must see to it that the medium of film remains responsible and sensitive to the values and standards of society. The numerous protests against the film Padmavati have shown how disturbing a large section of the people find the trailers of the movie.
1(b) however, loads the dice to some extent in favour of Bhansali. According to 1(b) (the objectives of film certification should ensure that) artistic expression and creative freedom are not unduly curbed.
Clause 1(c) swings the pendulum back in favor of the audience – certification is responsive to social change – There has been a dramatic change in the narrative of being secular. While at one point it was considered taboo to declare your pride towards ones Hindu origins, now it’s apparently a sin to hide it. People are perceptibly wearing the tag of Hindutva on their sleeves. The episode of a Queen sacrificing her life was once recalled with a certain amount of embarrassment, during the anti-Sati movement 1980s.[ix] Now, a social change has brought about both acceptance and respect for those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of honor in India’s historic past (while condemning the practice in today’s context.)
Equally embarrassing a few years ago was acknowledging the fact that invaders of Islamic origins literally plundered the lives and wealth of the Hindu kingdoms of India. Even if the issue was brought up, it was accorded a certain degree of acceptability (they were kings so therefore barbarism was acceptable).But not anymore. While no one seeks redemption for their barbaric acts, people are not really eager to grant acceptance to the inhuman acts of the invaders.
Clause 2 of the above notification instructs the Censor Board to ensure that the security of the State is not jeopardised or endangered.(2.xv). With such large scale protest and violence based on hearsay and trailers, it is but obvious that the security of the State would be under threat. Clause 2, subhead (xvii) further mandates the CBFC to ensure that public order is not endangered.
Chief Ministers of several states have already banned the movie[x] fearing disruption of law and order. These 2 clauses will make it difficult for any authority to justify the clearance of this movie.
Clause 3(i) may provide some relief to Bhansali, which asks to Board to ensure that the film is judged in its entirety for the point of view of its overall impact. But this advantage is apparently completely lost, by Clause 3(ii) which urges the Board to ensure that the film is examined in the light of the period depicted in the film and the contemporary standards of the country and the people to which the film relates, provided that the film does not deprave the morality of the audience. The people to whom the film relates are mainly the Rajput community. Their representatives are clearly upset.
Network 18 is the parent company of one of the production houses (Viacom 18 Motion Pictures) of the film. While they may not have any stakes in the plot of the movie, they definitely have interests linked to the finances (the cost of the movie is said to be approximately Rs. 180 Crore). It is therefore imperative for them that the movie is certified and released in theatres.
Prasoon Joshi was the lyricist[xi] for the BJP’s official anthem for 2014 Lok Sabha elections. At the same time he could be accused of association with NDTV (a channel known for anti BJP leanings) since he created their ad campaign ‘Sach Dikhate Hain Hum’. Similary he was also part of the Core Creative Advisory Committee for the controversial Commonwealth Games 2010, under the UPA Government. While one can argue that this mature, talented genius can’t be faulted for providing creative services to the powerful political dispensations, the politics related to this issue will certainly weigh in. But I mean that in a good way, in the sense that the CBFC can ill afford to neglect the wishes of the “illiterate/fringe” masses under the temptation to appear magnanimous. Perhaps rightly so, Prasoon has sought time to review the movie, instead of simply playing to the gallery of “secular brigade” of “intellectuals”.

The controversy hyped up around the film Padmavati is guaranteed to provide it instant success. The quality of the movie is now irrelevant. The influential Indian Film Industry in partnership with the Media Houses and the Corporate Sector has built up tremendous pressure against censorship of this movie. Blog after blog[xii] has saturated the internet to try to shame those opposing the movie, in a bid to mobilize public opinion – a key factor in the kind of banana republic India is being slowly converted to, thanks to the trials by media.
The fact the no Government has dared to act against the Producers or Director of the movie despite their apparently being insurmountable evidence of violation of the law of the land, speaks volumes regarding the influence of power of Bhansali.
At the same time, everyone realises that anything remotely objectionable in the movie has the potential to trigger off civil unrest.
While banning the movie seems unlikely in view of the powerful vested interests, in all probability a half-baked compromise formula is all that can be expected from the Censor Board. Those in it for money, will experience windfall gains the likes of which have not been seen.
At the same time this could also serve as an opportunity of the CBFC to showcase its autonomy by taking an unbiased objective decision, which will send across a message to the rich and powerful lobbies that creative liberty should not be reduced to be a source for financial plunder.

[i] RottenmAngoMan#Objections_To_Padmavati_Movie
[ii] Indian Cinematograph ActRule 38।।।।&#9757
[iii] Cinematograph includes any apparatus for the representation of moving pictures or series of pictures.(Cinematograph Act of 1952, Definitions – 2(c )
[iv] Central Board of Film Certification Enforcement
[v] DeccanChronicleIt’s Illegal To Export..
[vi] Central Board of Film Certification Homepage।&#9757
[vii] The Asian AgeGovt Looks For Historians..
[viii] RottenmAngoMan Queen Padmavati : Her Story,,
[ix] WikipediaSati (Practice)
[x] RottenmAngoMan Queen Padmavati : Real Life Drama
[xi] BJP releases party’s official..
[xii] Times Of India ..A Bigger Threat To BJP.. Chetan Bhagat