National Award-winning filmmaker Ashvin Kumar’s film No Fathers in Kashmir has hit the roadblock with the censor board. The director says that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has been sitting on his film for over 100 days while it usually takes about 68 days for the board to clear a film. However, the CBFC regional officer, Tusshar Karmarkar claims that the application for the film was only accepted on July 17 and got delayed as it was referred to a revising committee. Now, the film will be screened for the revising committee of the CBFC on Wednesday, October 10, in Mumbai.
Speaking about it, India’s youngest Oscar nominee says, “We applied to the CBFC for certification on June 15 and it took 80 days for the Examining Committee (EC) to see it. There were two gentlemen and two ladies, along with the RO (Regional Officer), present at the September 3 screening. Despite me flying from out of town, I was not given the opportunity to discuss or defend my film as no objections or comments were raised.”
But Ashvin received a letter from the RO the following day stating that the CBFC Chairperson (Prasoon Joshi) had referred the film to the revising committee at an unspecified time and place. “There were no reasons given for referring it to the revising committee. It’s 109 days and counting and there has been no communication from the CBFC since,” says Ashwin.
Ashvin, who is designer Ritu Kumar’s son and a BAFTA winner, admits that Kashmir is a contentious issue but points out that he has made two feature-length documentaries on the Valley which have bagged National Awards and been feted internationally. “I’ve been working in Kashmir for 10 years and all the facts and figures in my film are already in the public domain. Yes, it touches on some dark aspects but No Fathers In Kashmir is not anti-national, anti-army or seditious. It portrays what’s happening in the state while talking about forgiveness, reconciliation and moving on with an innocent love story as the backdrop,” Ashvin asserts.
Tusshar Karmarkar, RO, CBFC, Mumbai, refutes Ashvin’s claim, saying, “It was submitted only on July 15 and the application was incomplete. The corrected application was accepted only two days later.”
He agrees that the EC screening at which he was present, took place on September 3rd, but the film couldn’t be cleared. “We felt that it needed another screening. Yes, some time has passed in this case but it’s not been 100 days, as he claims. Usually, we clear a film by 68 days at the most but this film was referred to the RC and that took time,” he says, adding, “We will have a second screening in a couple of days.”
Prod the RO on whether Kashmir was the issue here and he says, “We look at a film in the perspective of the CBFC guidelines. It’s an internal process and in the case of some films, we may want an academic discussion or a wider opinion which was the reason we wanted another screening for this film.”
However, the cost that Ashwin has to incur goes up with every day the film is delayed as he has people on his payroll and is unable to fix a release date. Ashvin has repeatedly tried to get in touch with Prasoon. He wrote to Prasoon on September 20 and September 24, after receiving no response from the CEO on mails sent on August 21, August 27, September 10 and September 17 and a WhatsApp text on September 20, requesting him to conduct screenings of the film.
“If they have objections and want certain cuts, I’m open to a discussion and presenting my case. The shoot was over by 2016, we are nearing the end of 2018 with no release date in sight,” he says.
The filmmaker is not new to controversies. His short film, Little Terrorist, was eventually cleared after a third review by the then Chairperson Sharmila Tagore with an ‘Adult’ certificate which was unusual for a documentary.