The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) intends to approach the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) for an exclusive screening of the movie, ‘MSG: The Messenger of God’, before its nationwide release on January 16.
The film features the controversial head of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who was excommunicated from the Sikh community on the charges of blasphemy in May 2007 after he appeared at a religious congregation dressed in a robe akin to the one depicted as worn by Guru Gobind Singh in the guru’s portraits.
That incident had led to violence between Sikh groups and dera followers in various parts of Punjab, with the Akal Takht intervening and ordering a boycott of dera activities.
Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh has asked the SGPC to watch the movie and find out whether it contains any content that could hurt Sikh sentiments. The highest temporal seat of Sikhism is keen to ensure that timely steps are taken to get the CBFC to delete objectionable portions, if any.
The jathedar has expressed fears that the movie’s release could lead to violence, particularly in states such as Punjab and Haryana, where the dera has a sizeable number of followers.
Talking to the media here on Tuesday, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar said, “We will comply with the jathedar’s directions and try to watch the movie before its formal release. However, we have already indicated that the SGPC is not in favour of its release as it will lead to communal tension and possibly violence.”
Asked how he intended to watch the movie before January 16 as the producers may not oblige the SGPC with an exclusive screening, Makkar replied, “Let’s see if we can get a print of the movie. If that does not happen, we may approach the CBFC with a request.”
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) controls the SGPC, too, has stated that the decision to ban or release a film lies with the CBFC.
In the case of earlier films, such as ‘Son of Sardaar’, ‘Singh Is Kingg’, ‘Singh Saab the Great’ and ‘Jo Bole So Nihal’, the SGPC did not face any problems as the producers themselves came forward to screen the movies for SGPC review panels after objections were raised.
SGPC to have own censor board
Makkar indicated that the SGPC would soon have its own film certification and censor board. This board will consist of Sikh intellectuals, historians, culture and theatre experts and others.
“This board will take a decision on all films, whether in Hindi or Punjabi, which have Sikh characters or deal with Sikh subjects. Even historical films concerning Sikhs will have to be cleared by this board,” said Makkar, while agreeing that official and legal sanction was vital for such a board to come into existence.
In the 1990s, a proposal was mooted that the CBFC should have a Sikh member, preferably appointed by the SGPC. However, nothing came out of this proposal.
Earlier films under SGPC, Takht scanner
Jo Bole So Nihaal (2005)
Objection: The film’s title is the Sikh war cry. The Sikh hero played by Sunny Deol was dubbed ‘comical’. Deol played a Sikh despite having shorn hair.
Singh Is Kingg (2008)
Akshay Kumar enacted the role of a Sikh despite having shorn hair. He and some other actors tied the turban more like a cap. Most of the Sikh roles were heavy on comedy and violence.
Son of Sardaar (2012)
Objection: Ajay Devgn played a Sikh character but sported a Lord Shiva tattoo on his chest. The Akal Takht said Sikh gurus forbade idol worship and worship of deities. Thereafter, the tattoo was not shown.
Singh Saab the Great (2013)
Objection: The original title was ‘Singh Sahib the Great’. The Akal Takht pointed out that the term ‘Singh Sahib’ is only used for the Sikh high priests. So, part of the title was changed to ‘Singh Saab’.