'A Short Film About Lying'
On April 16, 2014 (Times Now) and Apr 17 (CNN-IBN), Kher, while debating Anand Patwardhan, blatantly lied to Rajdeep and Arnab on national television.
When caught out, he is now trying to brazen it out - not only has failed to apologize to all the viewers, he is now tweeting a link to one of the hundreds of audience Q & A sessions I've had post-screening.
What lies did he utter on TV?
Hear him in his own words here...
Also hear the bits of my Q & A Kher is tweeting as his defence - listen to me describe the charade of a CBFC screening to 'ban' the film, hear me speak of complaints to the Ministry and my precise words "Anupam got wind if it and organised a screening on his own". What did he get wind of? Why did he swing into action suddenly in Oct 2004, despite dozens of newsreports since April 2004 and the 'ban' in July 2004...
On Facebook, Mr Sharma also posted the following detailed note pointing out the full history of the current controversy:
It has been brought to my notice that Mr Anupam Kher, ex-Chairman, CBFC has been making patently false claims about the sequence of events surrounding the ban on my film Final Solution (on the Gujarat 2002 carnage) during his tenure. It seems that on Times Now (April 16) and CNN-IBN (April 17), Mr Kher, while engaging in debates with Anand Patwardhan, said:
- The film was ‘cleared’ while the BJP (NDA) was still the ruling party
- He was personally responsible for ‘clearing’ the film.
- His actions filled me with immense gratitude.
Mr Kher seems to be suffering either from serious memory lapses or is indulging in his age-old affliction of ‘creativitis’, merrily distorting and falsifying facts to score points in a live TV debate.
Even though his claims are too ridiculous to be dignified with any response, I do so in the interests of setting the record straight.
1. Final Solution was submitted to the CBFC in March-April 2004, while the NDA was in power.
2. Right from the start, CBFC tried to harass the film-maker by raising all sorts of objections concerning the submission of the application itself (eg, ‘improper’ binding of the script, typefaces etc).
3. Ever since its international premiere at the Berlin International film festival on Feb 5, 2004, the film started getting invitations to several filmfests as well as many awards. At Berlinale itself, the film got 2 awards, including the Staudte Award (now known as Golden Bear for Best Debut), which has never gone to a documentary before or ever since.
The CBFC responded by sending two legal notices to the film-maker on matters outside its purview (customs and foreign exchange related violations for international film festival screenings). The CBFC was formally advised that it had no jurisdiction and these notices were malafide.
4. After many representations to CBFC, an Examining Committee was finally convened on July 30, 2004 where the film was denied certifications and thus ‘banned’. Their exact ruling text can be found on the URL above.
5. Apprehending such a possibility, we had requested two independent journalists (The Telegraph and Mid-Day) to unobtrusively be present at CBFC (with an asstt director) to observe the entire process. The committee took less than 3 hours to watch the film, hold extensive discussions and then draft a ruling citing all relevant legal provisions therein. The problem: The film was over 3.5 hours long! Both the journalists published details of this sham the next day. I personally wrote to Mr Kher at CBFC on Aug 4, 2004 (see bwlow).
6. By this time, at the centre, a UPA government was sworn in following NDA’s defeat in the national elections. I now approached Mr Jaipal Reddy, Minister for I & B, urging him to invoke a rarely-used provision of the Cinematograph Act, to overturn the CBFC’s partisan ruling. In subsequent meetings with him and senior officers of the Ministry, I also demanded stringent action against the CBFC personnel involved in illegal and malfide actions.
7. Following serious protests by the documentary film-makers fraternity, and after the Ministry's own internal inquiries into the episode, Regional Officer Mr Singla was reverted to his parent cadre, permanently removed from the CBFC. Assistant RO Amitabh Sharma was transferred from CBFC, Mumbai to CBFC, Cuttack. As this action was being finalized in Delhi, Mr Kher saw the writing on the wall.
8. He called me and urged me to re-apply; I declined on the grounds that the CBFC had never seen the film in its entirety. Applying to a Revising Committee was tantamount to sanctifying the illegal and partisan proceedings of the earlier committee. Once he failed to have me re-apply, Mr Kher took a suo moto decision to convene a special committee, headed by the noted director Shyam Benegal, which cleared the film without a single cut.
9. 4-5 days after this, Mr Kher was summarily sacked by the Government of India. He accused 'documentary film-makers' of orchestrating his removal, strangely claiming credit for clearing my film, while attacking me for my lack of ‘gratitude’. At the time, I rebutted all his claims, even calling his regime one of the worst tenures in the history of CBFC (reported extensively by all leading newspapers in mid Oct, 2004).
I am deeply shocked to find that Mr Kher is once again claiming credit for ‘clearing’ my film in his TV studio discussions! Factually speaking, Mr Kher and his coterie of partisan officers first harassed me, while refusing to schedule the film for a CBFC panel screening. When they finally did so, it was done with utter mal-intent, hurrying the ban on the film. Mr Kher is believed to have personally called up the Police Commissioner, Bangalore to prevent a public screening of my film as the curtain raiser to the Films for Freedom Festival in Bangalore on July 29, 2004, a day before the CBFC ‘banned’ the film.
If Mr Kher’s conduct as Chairman, CBFC was less than professional and even partisan, his behaviour now defies credulity. His rightwing beliefs are too well-documented to bear repetition here. His association with Panun Kashmir and his proximity to the BJP too have been in public realm. His attempts to present himself as some sort of champion of free speech as the CBFC chairman amount to sheer duplicity and dishonesty.
I’d, in fact, prefer him to resort to the truth and proudly claim his role in preventing public screenings of my film as well as denying it a censor certificate through a carefully-planned drama on July 30, 2004.
Letter to Anupam Kher
August 4, 2004
Shri Anupam Kher
Dear Shri Kher,
I write to register my protest against the partisan manner in which the CBFC has dealt with my application for certification of my film – Final Solution. I am in particular deeply shocked by the charade conducted on July 26 by Mr Amitabh Sharma ( Asstt regional officer) during which the film was allegedly “previewed” by 4 panel members and comprehensively rejected for certification. I urge you to take appropriate action in the matter.
I’d like to put the details on record for your perusal:
- Representatives of our coalition – Films for Freedom – met the I & B Minister and a team of his officials on July 23. Among other issues, they raised the matter of frivolous and malafide notices issued to me by Mr. Singla, the regional officer in his bid to delay the certification process.
- Miraculously, the same evening, while I was in Karnataka, I got a message to call Ms Fernandes of the CBFC. I spoke to her at her residence sometime after 7 p.m. and she informed me that a preview had been slotted for Monday, July 26. We specifically spoke about the following:
- My inability to attend a preview at such a short notice, especially since the call was being made on late Friday evening for a Monday screening.
- My suggestion that the preview be conducted later, upon my return from Bangalore on or after August 7. Ms Fernandes, however, pled her inability to reschedule the preview as panel members had already been invited.
- My counter-suggestion that even if a preview were to be held in my absence, I should be allowed an opportunity to make oral submissions to the panel upon my return
- Ms Fernandes asked me whether I’d like to depute someone to represent me and I specifically declined informing her that I’ll send my assistant directors to facilitate the preview (carry a spare VHS copy of the film and the transcript etc) but they were not authorized by me to speak to the panel. Ms Fernandes promised to inform the officer concerned about our discussion.
- On Monday, July 26 , a preview panel convened by Mr Amitabh Sharma met at about 1 p.m. and informed my assistants at 2:12 p.m. that a decision had been taken to cancel the preview as the script had been submitted in English and not in the original spoken languages – Gujarati and Hindi. I personally called from Bangalore within minutes but Mr Sharma refused to take the call.
- At 2:30 p.m. my assistants were informed that the Board had decided to go ahead with the preview. During the preview process, panel members took frequent breaks, a log of which was maintained by my assistant director. I enclose it for your information. You’d notice that preview panel members stepped out of the screening from time to time Since no one else is allowed into the screening, we do not know whether other members continued watching the film or paused the screening to allow the absent member to return and continue preview.
- The preview process was formally over at 5:25 pm when my assistants were summoned inside. Despite their clear and unequivocal protest that they were not authorized to make any oral submissions, Mr Amitabh Sharma went ahead with the proceedings. One of the 4 panel members intervened and suggested a discussion with the Chairman to allow me to make oral submissions later. Mr Sharma overruled him and within minutes announced the formal decision to ban the film. Interestingly, most panel members had written out their final formal observations even before the so-called “oral hearing” commenced.
- Quite amazingly, in less than three hours, the preview panel not only watched my film in its entirety but went on to hold extensive discussions among themselves and write their detailed comments! If we were to take into account the time lost on account of ‘breaks’ taken by panel members, it would appear that the panel finished previewing the film in its entirety in little over two hours! As you may know, Final Solution is over three and a half hours in duration.
- The conduct of the preview panel seems to be less than exemplary. I urge you to order an urgent inquiry into the episode and take appropriate action. Prima Facie, there seem to be numerous violations of The Cinematograph (certification) rules, 1983 including but not limited to clause 22(13), 41 (1), 41 (2), 41 (4c) etc as well as violations of the provisions contained in the Cinematograph Act.
- May I also direct your attention to a news report from the Indian Express dated Feb 24, 2004. The article specifies the names of 17 members from the Mumbai preview panel connected with the BJP and its sister organizations. I believe that at least one of these members was part of the preview panel that rejected my film.
- Over the last couple of years, many of us have been deeply perturbed by a perceived political bias in the functioning of the Mumbai censor board vis-à-vis documentary films, especially those dealing with political subjects (Anand Patwardhan’s War and Peace, Ramesh Pimple’s Aakrosh etc). Both film-makers finally had to approach the Mumbai High Court for relief. My own recent experience has led me to believe that it is impossible for me to get a free and fair hearing by any committee constituted by CBFC.
I urge you to take action against erring officials and preview panel members for violating various provisions and procedures as their actions constitute a blatant disregard of the law and the Indian Constitution. By refusing me even a single opportunity to be heard, they have violated the very principle of natural justice.
Cc: Shri Jaipal Reddy, Hon’bleMinister for I & B.
Cc: Films for Freedom
Encl: 1. Censor Preview logs
2. Show-cause notices from MrSingla and my responses.
Censor Board Preview Screening Logs for Final Solution : July 26, 2004
The preview panel has five members – Mr AmitabhSharma, the Asstt Regional Officer, CBFC, lady members Ms A and Ms B and malemembers Mr C and Mr D.
- Screening commences at about 2 p.m. but within minutes, at around 2:12 pm, the screening is disrupted. Mr. Amitabh Sharma says that the film preview will be cancelled and the committee dissolved as the script (Hindi and Gujarati) was not submitted. We ask him to contact Mr. Rakesh Sharma in Bangalore. He declines. We call Bangalore and Rakesh asks us to tell the officer that any cancellation on these grounds would amount to a violation of the Cinematograph certification rules. We request the officer to speak to Mr. Sharma again. He declines and we ask Rakesh to call CBFC.
- At around 2:30, the officer informs us that he has decided to proceed with the preview screening.
Details of members leaving and entering the preview room-
3:00 – Ms A comes out to talk on cell phone. Returns to the preview room 6 minutes later.
3:11 – Ms B takes a break and returns 2 minutes later
3:15 – Ms A takes a break (returns in 5 mins).
3:18 – Mr. C (who later introduced himself as Prof Sinha) leaves and returns 4 minutes later
3:32 – Amitabh Sharma leaves the preview and returns7 minutes later.
3:42 – Mr. D comes out, talking on his cellphone, goes back 3 minutes later
3:50 – Ms A leaves preview room and returns at 3:53
3:56 – Mr. D leaves preview room. Returns within a minute.
4:26 – Ms A leaves preview room and returns at 4:29
4:36 – Ms A comes out and returns at 4:37
4:40 – Mr. Amitabh Sharma leaves room, returns 2minutes later
4:47 – Mr. Amitabh Sharma leaves room again and returns at 4:50
4:51 – Ms A leaves the preview room yet again and returns at 4:53
5:25 - Preview Proceedings ended.
We are summoned inside. We ask Mr. Amitabh Sharma to contact Rakesh over his cellphone and categorically tell him that we are not authorized to represent him for the oral hearing/submission. Ms A intervenes and says ample notice has been provided to Mr. Rakesh Sharma. Mr D suggests that the oral hearing/submission process be deferred till such time Rakesh Sharma is present in person. Mr. Amitabh Sharma overrules him. Ms A suggests that all members have already written out their comments and Mr. Amitabh Sharma collate them and ensure “strong wording” of the grounds of rejection.
At about 5:35, Mr. Amitabh Sharma formally reads out the preview panel recommendation minutes later citing several guidelines and articles. We request him again to contact the producer/director Mr. Rakesh Sharma, who was standing by in Bangalore for any calls from the Censor Board.Mr. Amitabh Sharma announces that the proceedings are formally closed.
Logs prepared by Ms Archana Menon, present outside the preview room with a duplicate VHS and copies of the script etc.
All documents about the above controversy can be seen here