Eight months after it was denied a censor certificate on various grounds, the producers of the Hindi feature film "Modi Ka Gaon", loosely inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda, has finally cleared all hurdles for release.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) informed the producer, Suresh K. Jha, on Wedneday that the film has been approved and 'sealed' prior to the certificate, paving the way for its exhibition.
"This is a major victory for us. All the objectionable points raised by the CBFC have been crushed by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). Now we plan for it to hit the screens all over India by mid-December," an elated Jha told IANS.
Last February, then CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani had refused to certify the film on various grounds and asked Jha to get a NOC from the PMO and Election Commission of India before it could get a censor certificate.
Nihalani's reluctance stemmed from the ongoing assembly elections in some states at that time, the resemblance of the main character to Modi, references to Pakistan's Uri attacks, news-speeches related to the Prime Minister and a character named 'Pappu' Bihari featuring in the film
Unfazed by the unprecedented demands, Jha wrote to the PMO seeking the NOC to comply with the CBFC requirements, but there was no response.
Finally, he moved the FCAT challenging the CBFC order. The Tribunal viewed the film in July before delivering its detailed verdict last month.
In its October 12 order, the FCAT said that there are ano statutory basis or justifiable requirements for getting NOC from PMO and ECI.
"The requirement to obtain NOC from the PMO, since either references are made to the PM or a character is portrayed as the PM, have no legal basis or foundation," the FCAT said.
"The statutory responsibility for certification of films is cast upon the CBFC Board under the Cinematograph Acta (It) cannot be delegated to different statutory authorities, departments or individuals," the order added.
It noted Jha's contentions that though the film has been inspired by Modi's zeal, development plans and strategies, the scenes in the film are imaginary and not reproductions of any actual events.
The FCAT also considered Jha's plea that 'Pappu' is a baby's pet/nick name in many parts of India and later it supercedes the child's given name. Also, in the past, there have been instances like Bollywood film number "Pappu Can't Dance Saala" and an advertisement 'Pappu Pass Ho Gaya'.
After the FCAT ruling, 'Modi Ka Gaon' again went to the CBFC for the viewing and certification process, after which it has finally decided to give its green signal for public exhibition.
"Although it is not a biopic on Modi, throughout our film, we represent the working of our PM, his dream of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Smart India and Digital India," Jha explained.
On the Modi look-alike, he said when the film is about Modi's development agenda and vision of transforming India, how can it be portrayed with somebody else who does not resemble him.
Nevertheless, he has now removed the references like 'Pappu' and direct references to the Uri attack and the Prime Minister in sync with the CBFC's requirements.
Mumbai businessman Vikas Mahante enacts the main character of Modi. Television actors Chandramani M. and Zeba A. portray the other important roles in the 135-minute-long film, directed by Tushar A. Goel.
It was shot last year extensively on locales in Mumbai, Patna and Darbhanga, detailing the Prime Minister's aim of transforming all rural and urban centres into Smart Villages and 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.
After all the hiccups, Jha has directly blamed Nihalani "for the bad politics created and the losses" suffered by him on account of the huge delays in releasing the film and hinted he might claim damages from the ex-CBFC chief.
"We are trying our best to release the film by mid-December and hope we succeed in our endeavor," Jha concluded.