New Delhi: In an unexpected turn of events, after Censor Board chief Leela Samson resigned from her post on Friday, as many as nine other members followed suit. After Samson cited interference and corruption as the sole reason for her resignation from the coveted post, nine other CBFC members too opted for resigning in support of the former chief.
Reportedly, the whole controversy erupted after self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's film 'MSG—Messenger Of God' was given a green signal by the Film Certification Apellate Tribunal (FCAT) on Friday for release. The Censor Board had earlier decided to refer the decision related to clearance to the film in question to the FCAT.
The members said the events that led to the Chairperson Leela Samson resigning from her position were merely the "proverbial last straw". Samson, who headed the statutory body under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, resigned amid controversy surrounding the clearance of controversial film "Messenger of God" featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
In a letter, the nine members -- Arundhati Nag, Ira Bhaskar, Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma, Rajeev Masand, Sekharbabu Kancherla, Shaji Karun, Shubhra Gupta and T G Thyagarajan have submitted their resignation from the Censor Board. The members said that since the time that they first joined the Board, they had been seeking critical changes, which were imperative if the functioning of the CBFC has to be reformed.
"However, in spite of sending numerous recommendations and appeals, and having several meetings with the secretaries and senior officials of the ministry, and even one with an earlier Minister, not a single positive step has been taken by the Ministry," they said. The CBFC members claimed that the "Advisory Panel continues to be filled up with people of questionable credentials appointed directly by the Ministry, without taking the Board's recommendations into account."
No funds have been released for conducting orientation workshops for the panel members, they said, adding officers from other departments, who have no understanding or experience in cinema are appointed as officials. They also claimed that there are several positions in the regional offices that do not have regular appointments. "There has been no board meeting for the last one year for us to discuss developments and make recommendations, as we were told that there are no funds to organize it. It seems that the CBFC Board is not required at all," the letter by the nine members said.
"It is our firm position that given the cavalier and dismissive manner in which the CBFC is treated by government, it is impossible to perform this duty with even a modicum of efficacy or autonomy. We also object to the way in which the Chairperson has been treated by the Ministry which we feel has been humiliating for us all," the letter said.
Eminent filmmaker Shaji N Karun, one of the nine members who resigned from the board pledging solidarity expressed "gross dissatisfaction" at the functioning of the body. Karun, who mailed his resignation to Samson last evening, said he was quitting not just over the issue of clearance to the controversial film "Messenger of God" but mainly because of the "constitutional and organisational" failure of the CBFC for some time.
"I emailed my resignation to the Chairperson. It is quite natural that when the chairperson steps down, the team which worked together under her also resigns. My information is that as many as 14 CBFC members have already put in their resignation," Karun said. He is the latest member to resign amid the controversy surrounding the overnight clearance to "Messenger of God" featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
Samson said that it is a mockery of CBFC and that she has informed the I&B Secretary about the matter. She reportedly alleged interference and coercion in the Censor Board work. However, she later denied ‘MSG’ being the factor behind her decision to resign.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said Samson's resignation was her personal decision and there was no coercion by the government.
"Whatever the decision, it has to be acceptable to all," he said, in an obvious reference to the FCAT's green signal for ‘MSG’. "There was no coercion by the government. If she feels so, let her convey it to the government."
‘MSG’ was reportedly first rejected by the examining committee of the Censor Board and referred to the revising committee.
(With Agency Inputs)