Why Inshallah Football got an ‘Adult’ certificate

On the 31st of December I received a letter from the CBFC informing me of the outcome of the fourth committee that has vetted Inshallah, Football. The contents of this letter (attached) were disappointing.

As you can see, Inshallah, Football has been given an “A” or ‘ADULT’ certificate for the following reason:

The film has characters talking about graphic details of physical and mental torture that they had to undergo. The theme of the film is mature and some dialogues can be psychologically damaging for non adult audience. Therefore, A certificate is granted.

The CBFC have just made it illegal for us to show the film to the footballer boys who feature in the film. And there are other disturbing features about this ‘verdict’ :

The stories told by the people in Inshallah, Football is the truth told by ordinary Kashmiris. This ensures that the audience, particularly the new generation of youth in India towards whom the film is targeted, and whose constitutional right it is to be informed and know the truth of what has happened in the valley, are kept away from it. This only serves to ferment more hate and distrust which has been the biggest casualty in the average Indian’s understanding of the Kashmir conflict. Why is that any voice that tries to speak the truth, be it Arundhati Roy or Inshallah, Football, is repressed by the Government machinery? “

It is against national interest to restrict the viewing of Inshallah, Football for the film clarifies the conflict in Kashmir for the average Indian and helps promote understanding between the people of Kashmir and the rest of India. By restricting Inshallah, Football the same mistakes that have only served to alienate the people of Kashmir from the rest of India are being repeated.

This is a face-saving cynical verdict. In this case, ‘A’ certificate only purpose is to help CBFC officials get around an ‘inconvenient’ film without attracting the controversy that an outright ban would produce. The ‘A’ certificate also helps to absolve CBFC’s constitutional responsibility both to the public and to producers of films. By the actions of CBFC it appears that it is more interested in avoiding potential legal suits than doing its job, i.e. to certify whether a film is fit for public consumption or not. This ‘verdict’ sneakily reflects the attitude of a mediocre bureaucratic system. A regime like Iran – which is capable of putting a great filmmaker like Panahi behind bars for alleged distention, is more obvious/easy to react to and finally fight than a resolution like the one it was imposed on Inshallah. A resolution which is much more complex to evaluate. In other words, the truth has been silenced in a silent way.

Internet and 24 hr news channels SHOW much worse examples of mental / physical torture : in the era of twenty four hour news channels and websites like YouTube, which are open and free to all ages to access, not only do people “talk” about graphic details of physical and mental torture in the form of news stories or expose but the country is SHOWN GRAPHIC VISUALS to accompany the same. “Talking about” graphic details of mental and physical torture is highly subjective and arbitrary grounds to award the film an ‘A’ certificate.

Youth & Sport : This film is about YOUTH and SPORT and it features teenagers who are a large part of the film. How do you define ‘mature’ if age is the differentiator, Inshallah, Football is a film for young people and it should be watched by the new generation of Indian citizens and discussions should take place in schools and colleges, so that generations of pre-conceieved ideas about Kashmir are challenged and clarified. So that the young can undo the wrongs of the generation past, rather than be forced to make the same mistakes.

‘A’ certificate is usually given to films with excessive sex or violence. How can a documentary film that relies on interviews only and no graphic representations be said to contain either sex or violence? There are NO dialogues in the film. Whatever is spoken is the voice and ideas of the real people speaking it.

Giving an ‘A’ certificate means financial death to the film because it becomes virtually unreleasable in India. No distributor wants to spend the kind of money it takes to market / promote films if it has an ‘A’ certificate.

Four committees reviewed the film with differing results : We would like to know which guidelines and sections of the cinematographic act have been referred to in awarding this film an A certificate? The CBFC claim that this is only the ‘second review committee’ but we know that the film was vetted and reviewed exhaustively at-least the following times :

1. By Pankaja Thakur, CEO and member of Delhi office of CBFC on the 28th of October, the film is cleared for a single private screening also assures that a CC will be given, as it is a matter of formality now.

2. By 1st review committee who denied certification (i.e. a ban)

3. By 2nd review committee who also denied certification (i.e. a ban) The film makers should have been invited to present their case but were not.

4. By 3rd review committee constiuted using discretionary powers of Ms. Sharmila Tagore chairperson of CBFC. The film makers were invited to present their case less than 24 hours notice in New Delhi (as below).

The producers were not invited to appear before the first or the second revision committees of Inshallah, Football which is in violation of the rules of CBFC. We were informed by email on the 28th of December 2010 where as the 3rd screening took place on the 29th of December 2010 in New Delhi (a different city to where the application was made – Mumbai) Why was such short notice given to appear before the committee? That too in another city (New Delhi) whereas the application for CC was made in Mumbai. Was it reasonable to expect our presence at such short notice?

The opaque, arbitrary nature of this decision appears to have been taken under media pressure and scrutiny without keeping in mind either the era that we live in nor the financial damage being done to the film makers and the moral damage to the citizens of India, goes to show once again that censorship of motion pictures and the practice of asking film makers to tailor their work according to highly subjective views of a panel of judges whose qualifications to be on such committees are questionable, is a mediaeval practice that should be dispensed with.

The CBFC should have a clear set of guidelines along which they transparently certify films by a jury of peers who operate without fear of legal repercussions or public censure for the decisions they take. CBFC should certainly refrain from being our mummies and daddies on the one hand or taking decisions that will absolve them of responsibility or legal action.