Mumbai: In a bolt from the blue, the censor board has refused to clear the "Modi Ka Gaon" feature film based on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda, one of the grounds being cited is the ongoing assembly elections in five states.
The producer of the medium-budget film, Suresh Jha, who has co-directed it with Tushar A. Goel, is crying foul and has accused the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) of discriminating against the movie -- due for release on February 10.
"The censor board officials called and informed us that they have found the film objectionable on three main counts. "They have stipulated conditions which are so difficult to comply with that I might as well forget about releasing the film," Jha told IANS early Thursday.
"The golden solution: 'Get an NOC from the Election Commission'...I think this must be the first time the EC is expected to preview a film and clear it before the authorised body, the CBFC certifies it," he said. The board also raised the issue of casting Vikas Mahante as Modi -- the CBFC has objected to the look-alike actor playing the title role, according to Jha. "The film is about Modiji's development agenda and his vision for transforming the country... How can I possibly portray all this with somebody who does not resemble him," Jha asked.
He surmised that the CBFC is worried that the Modi look-alike might stoke a fresh row, with the Opposition parties targetting the censor board for permitting its release.
Mahante's uncanny resemblance to Modi has made him a crowd puller in his own right and earned him the sobriquet 'the Modi from Mumbai'. The CBFC has also taken umbrage at a prominent side-character, 'Pappu Bihari', in the film, saying the name should be deleted from the entire film. "They probably apprehend that Pappu Bihari, might offend the real-life politician Pappu Yadav! But, in Bihar, 'Pappu' is a very common name or a pet name, so I am mystified why the censor board is opposed to it," Jha said.
Pappu Yadav is a controversial political leader from Bihar, a three-time former Lok Sabha MP and founder-president of Janadhikar Party. Jha's much-anticipated 135-minute feature film completed shooting in December and applied for CBFC certification in January. "We are likely to get the CBFC verdict in writing later today (Thursday) after which we shall decide the next course of action," Jha added.
Emphasing that the film is "not a biopic", he said was even planning a mega-premiere with the Prime Minister himself present for the honours. Besides, Mumbai businessman Mahante, television actors Chandramani M. and Zeba A. would play the other important roles in the film.
Jha said that Zeba gets washed away in a massive flood in Bihar, but is later rescued by an NGO and sent to the US for studies. "There, she learns of Modiji's vision, work and dreams for transforming India into a developed nation. She feels inspired to return to her homeland," Jha said.
The film was extensively shot in Mumbai, Patna and Darbhanga, detailing Modi's aim of making all rural and urban centres 'Smart Villages' or 'Smart Cities'. The music for the film is directed by Manojanand Choudhary. It has seven songs. The all-India release was scheduled from Uttar Pradesh, said Jha.