Indian censor board refuses to clear Modi-themed feature film

CBFC has objected to look-alike playing the title role

Ians February 09, 2017
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PHOTO: REUTERS

MUMBAI: The Indian censor board has refused to clear a feature film based on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda. One of the grounds cited is the ongoing assembly elections in five states.

The producer of the medium-budget film, Modi ka Gaon, Suresh Jha, who has co-directed it with Tushar A. Goel, is crying foul and accused the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) of discriminating against a movie due for Friday release.
"Censor board officials informed us they found the film objectionable on three main counts. There is no way I can release it tomorrow (Friday). So I am considering moving the court," Jha said in an interview.

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"They have stipulated conditions which are so difficult to comply with that I might as well forget about releasing the film.

"The golden solution: 'Get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Election Commission(EC)... I think this must be the first time the PMO or EC are expected to preview a film and clear it before the CBFC certifies it," Jha said.

The CBFC said: "Submit NOC from PMO regarding Prime Minister's portrayal/references through a character in the film resembles... (The film portrays development plans, references to Pakistan's Uri attack, news and speeches related to the PM)."

It has also sought NOC from the EC, "as elections are going on in various parts of the country and the film can be treated as promotional material for political campaigns".

The board also orally raised the issue of casting Vikas Mahante as Modi -- the CBFC has objected to the look-alike actor playing the title role, said 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? If film-makers have to get clearances from other bodies, then what is the need for CBFC?" Jha asked.

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He surmised that the CBFC is worried that the Modi look-alike might stoke a fresh row, with the opposition parties targeting 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 "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 movie, including the songs.

Jha's much-anticipated 135-minute feature film completed shooting in December. He applied for CBFC certification in January.

Emphasising that the film was "not a biopic", he said he was planning a mega premiere with the Prime Minister himself.

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'.

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