NEW DELHI, August 11, 2011
Derogatory remarks in 'Aarakshan,' says Commission
PTI Director Prakash Jha and actor Amitabh Bachchan during a
promotional event for the film 'Aarakshan' in Patna recently.
I don't think the film is anti-Dalit, no question of reviewing its
certification: Censor Board chairperson
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the Censor
Board have come to a stand-off over Prakash Jha's new film
'Aarakshan,' which deals with reservation and commercialisation in
The Commission, which viewed the film on Tuesday, said certain
dialogues in the film were "derogatory" and "objectionable" to Dalits
and asked the Censor Board to order changes. However, the Board, which
granted the film a U/A certification, said it would defend Mr. Jha's
right to free expression.
"While the overall theme of the film is not objectionable, it is
loaded with anti-Dalit and anti-reservation dialogues," said NCSC
chairman P.L. Punia. He pointed to a scene where two businessmen
remark that they don't want their children to study with those from
Dalit communities "who stink" and have no manners as particularly
"humiliating." He added that rather than condemning such an attitude,
Mr. Bachchan's character merely replied that he would not take two
sets of classes for Dalit and non-Dalit students.
Other characters mock the concept of reservation for Dalits, comparing
it to alms, and claiming that Dalit students should be shining shoes
rather than pursuing their studies.
"The film ridicules the rights given to the underprivileged by the
Constitution as well as the Supreme Court. This is a matter of shame
for the nation as a whole," said Mr. Punia.
However, Censor Board chairperson Leela Samson said there was no
question of reviewing its certification. "When you show a certain
situation, you must show reality as it is… [These dialogues] are
nothing new when you consider the abuse hurled in everyday dialogues
in this country," she said. "I don't think the film is anti-Dalit."
The Amitabh Bachchan-Saif Ali Khan starrer had come under fire from
Dalit activist groups and politicians even before the Central Board of
Film Certification (CBFC), better known as the Censor Board, cleared
the film. However, on Tuesday, the Mumbai High Court refused to ban
the film, observing that "the only appropriate authority who has a
right to judge a film is the Censor Board," adding that the
filmmaker's fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression
could not be restricted.
Mr. Jha, who organised the screening for the NCSC after the Court's
ruling, said he had not received any instructions from Mr. Punia,
adding that everyone was free to air his or her observations on the
film. However, he would only take instructions to revise the film's
dialogues from a body which had the power to revoke the Censor Board's
certification. "A High Court has cleared it. So has CBFC. So where is
the problem?" he asks.
'Active debate needed'
Scriptwriter Anjum Rajabali — who is a member of the CBFC — said the
film should be seen in totality. "The film takes the issue of
casteism, an old wound, head on and in doing so it has to echo
different prejudices and biases present in our society for years," he
said. "Only then an active debate is possible. People could have
objections with dramaturgy or the inability of the film to hold
attention but as far as the issue of reservation is concerned it is
fairly debated. The film goes beyond reservation to show how it has
led to commercialisation of education."
Mr. Punia said that he would not fight with the Censor Board if it
refused to make the cuts or delay the release of the film.
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