New Delhi: Filmmaker Ashvin Kumar is yet to open up about the nature of cuts in his Kashmir-set drama "No Fathers In Kashmir", which he says has been facing the "Kafkaesque tradition" that the censor board had set for itself ever since his first film came out.
As he is set for a hearing at the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) on Tuesday, he says he is prepared to approach the court if he doesn't get a U/A certificate without cuts for his movie.
Ashvin, an Oscar nominated filmmaker, has been going back and forth with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for months, fighting for censor clearance.
"The decision of the CBFC to ban 'No Fathers in Kashmir' and the conditional cuts and 'A' certificate proposed, is against established law," Ashvin told IANS.
However, Tushar Karmarkar, Regional Officer of the CBFC in Mumbai, told IANS: "There is no ban on the film. We have shared the report with the filmmaker. The film has not released, so I cannot go into the details of the report. Basically the filmmaker's contention is about 'A' category certificate and he knows why it was given. It is not in our hands to disclose to the media, but there are some suggested modifications."
Ashvin isn't going into specifics either.
"We cannot get into the exact nature of the cuts at this point because it's under the legal process. But I can tell you that the cuts are completely frivolous and arbitrary, and do not hold up under legal scrutiny. A way to understand this would be that the first set of cuts (that kept the film banned for almost the first six months) were completely set aside in the second order, indicating that they were now fine and could be used in the film, and a completely new set of cuts were suggested.
"This makes us feel that the CBFC is desperately grasping at straws in an attempt to limit the film's circulation. I can tell you this though, that in both cases the cuts are arbitrary, against the viewer's right to know and my right to speak under Article 18 and are in fact against the superior courts' legal precedent," he told IANS on being prodded.
Ashvin's fight for the right CBFC certification started with his first film on Kashmir titled "Inshallah Football", and it repeated with "Inshallah, Kashmir". His new film is based on a father-son story.
The film has been through an examination committee, a revising committee, a tribunal and sent back to a second revising committee and now they are headed back to the FCAT.
"And in all this time not once have we had the opportunity to present legal arguments on the merits of the case, as to why the film should be given a U/A certificate without any cuts.
"The current status is that we have a hearing at FCAT on January 22 (Tuesday), which I hope will end this entire episode favourably for us, that is a U/A certificate without cuts. If not, we are prepared to approach the courts of the land and get relief there," he added.
Ashvin, son of veteran fashion designer Ritu Kumar, says that his case is "legally solid" and that he is "supremely confident that the courts of our country will rule in our favour."
"Pankaj Butalia's film on stone pelting in Kashmir, 'Textures of Loss', in which the facts are almost similar to that of 'No Fathers in Kashmir', the High Court of Delhi converted the (A) adult rating to (U) universal.
"CBFC has previously awarded a (U/A) certificate to the film 'Haider', which was deeply critical of the state's role in Kashmir. Films like 'Half-Widows' which mirror the themes of our film have also been given a U certificate," Kumar contended.
A two-time National Film Award winner, Kumar is also upset about being unable to apply for the National Film Awards this time as they needed to have a censor certificate by December 31.
"The release date of our film was January 15, and as we don't have a censor certificate, so we have missed that as well.
"I had an occasion to recall the somewhat comic ritual that saw 'Inshallah Football', my first film on Kashmir, being banned by the CBFC. After protest, given an (A) adult certificate and then going on to win a National Award (2011). Followed by my next film, 'Inshallah, Kashmir' in the following year, also being banned. And, after protest, being given an (A) adult certificate and it too winning a National Award (2012).
"CBFC's verdict on my new film 'No Fathers in Kashmir' follows the Kafkaesque tradition CBFC set for itself two movies ago and so, for the third time, 'No Fathers in Kashmir' has also been banned," he said, insisting on the word "banned" which the CBFC does not deem fit for the situation.
In Kumar's words, "No Fathers in Kashmir" is a coming-of-age story about two sixteen-year-olds experiencing first love and heartbreak.
"But in the world view of CBFC sixteen-year-old Indians are not allowed to watch it."