In the wake of a bribery scandal surrounding the Censor Board, the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) arrested the Board’s CEO Rakesh Kumar on Tuesday (August 19).
According to reports, there was a prevalent practice of film-makers offering money to Kumar to get clearances, and avoid delays with their projects.
Also read: Censor Board CEO arrested on graft charges
Even as we get film-makers and former top officials of the Board to react to the issue (see boxes right and below), the latest update is that interim measures are being worked out to ensure that the functioning of the CBFC (Central Board of Film Certification) does not come to a standstill.
Sources close to the Board reveal that two members have been authorised to start certifying films in the absence of a CEO. We contacted Leela Samson, chairperson of the Board, for a confirmation. She said, "Yes, Deepak Tandel (secretary to the chairperson) and Sanjay Jaiswal (senior administrative officer) have been authorised to certify films, since there is already a backlog of films."
She also revealed that some former panel members (who watch the films and make recommendations) have been brought back: "The tenures of about 25 members from various regions, whose contracts had expired, have been extended for a couple of months," Samson told us. She also reveals that they are looking to "strengthen the panel. I’m constantly in touch with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry."
According to reports, Shravan Kumar, CEO, Children’s Film Society of India, has been given additional charge as the CEO of the Censor Board for the time being.
Mahesh Bhatt, film-maker: I have always had a confrontational relationship with the Censor Board. But it has never crossed my mind that you would have to grease somebody’s palms to get a film passed. This ugly truth jolted me.
Hansal Mehta, director: There was never any uniformity with the certification process. The censorship code is redundant. You are appointing civil servants, who have no idea of cinema, to preside over the certification process. The system itself is corrupt.
Ajay Bahl, director: There is a lot of paperwork involved in submitting a film to the Board. Sometimes, corrupt agents watch your film and tell you that it will need 25 cuts, despite knowing that it will only require 10 or 15 cuts. Then they say things like, ‘Let me see what I can do.’ Then, that calls for money.
Pankaja Thakur, former CEO, CBFC: What has happened is very unfortunate. I don’t want to be dragged into this. I am from another ministry now.
Anupam Kher, former chairman, CBFC: When I was part of the Board, I don’t think any such thing was going on. This is just a case of a random officer being greedy. There are touts, but they exist at a lower level.