The Central Board of Film Certification has refused to issue a censor certificate to a Telugu movie based on caste-based reservations because it was “likely to affect public order and disrupt peace”.
Sharanam Gachchami, directed by Enumula Prem Raj of Warangal in Telangana under the Bommaku Productions banner, was sent to the regional office of the censor board in Hyderabad for clearance in the first week of January. However, the board – which viewed the film on January 12 – refused to issue the certificate required for its public exhibition.
“I told them that I am ready to accept cuts if any objectionable dialogues or scenes are found in the film. But they said I can’t be given the certificate because the entire film is objectionable,” Raj told HT.
An official communication received by the director on Wednesday confirmed that the censor board had rejected certification for the movie, and he was free to file an appeal before the review committee. “This is the first time the censor board has refused to grant certification to a Telugu film. There have been instances of the board recommending major cuts and suggesting changes in the film title, but it has never completely barred a movie from being screened,” said Raj.
Sharanam Gachchami is the story of Manas, a varsity student who picks reservations as his PhD topic after a friend commits suicide over losing a government job to a lower-caste candidate. While carrying out his research, the student realises why reservations were introduced to uplift members of the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes in the society. However, Manas – at the same time – notices how only a few members of the weaker class enjoy quota benefits, while a vast majority continue to be discriminated against.
“The film has dialogues referring to the suicide of University of Hyderabad research scholar Rohith Vemula, flogging of Dalits at Una in Gujarat, and the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. Maybe that’s why censor board officials refused to issue a certificate to my film,” the director said.
When contacted, censor board regional officer Venkata Rajasekharam refused to comment because “he was busy viewing other films”. His letter, however, said Sharanam Gachchami was being refused a certificate because “it has taken a stand against several provisions of the Constitution, has caste conversations (sic)… and has specifically targeted certain sections of the society”.
Aarakshan, a 2011 Bollywood movie starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone, was also based on caste-based reservations. Although it received the censor certificate, the movie kicked up a major controversy – resulting in it being prohibited from screening in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. The ban was lifted only after the Supreme Court cleared it with a few cuts.