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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Unfreedom director plans to fight a legal battle against ban on his film

Director Raj Amit Kumar’s film Unfreedom is finally getting a Netflix release after facing a ban in India. The filmmaker talks about his struggles, censorship in the country and more.

bollywood Updated: Apr 17, 2018 12:31 IST
Sweta Kaushal
Sweta Kaushal
Hindustan Times
As Unfreedom gets a release on Netflix, the film’s director, Raj Amit Kumar, is determined to fight against the ban on the film’s theatrical release.
As Unfreedom gets a release on Netflix, the film’s director, Raj Amit Kumar, is determined to fight against the ban on the film’s theatrical release.

After almost a year long ban on Unfreedom in India, its release on Netflix must have given director Raj Kumar Amit a reason to celebrate. Only, the director is not one to be satisfied with half victories. As the film starts streaming, he now plans to take up a legal battle, demanding that the ban that was imposed by Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) on Unfreedom should be lifted. The film was banned on the grounds that it would “ignite unnatural passions”,

“It is illegal that they banned my film. I plan to fight a legal battle, even after the Netflix release. I will fight against the ban. Neither the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) nor FCAT have the right to ban a film. My fight will be in terms of how the censorship works. If you are saying you cannot certify my film because I am not agreeing to your cuts and changes, there has to some certification for a filmmaker who says he won’t make a single change in his film. I mean how ridiculous the system currently is? In the age of internet, Netflix and YouTube, what are you banning really? On what grounds are you banning something? By cutting us in this way, you are cutting the financial backing off people who have the courage to speak out the truth. That’s against the basic rights of expression, you are not my film’s editors,” he says in a conversation with Hindustan Times.

Actors Preeti Gupta and Bhavani Lee in  a still from Unfreedom.
Actors Preeti Gupta and Bhavani Lee in a still from Unfreedom.

He further says, “The kind of sex and violence that we show in our so-called ‘normal films’ or the item numbers. All of that is fine in the space of entertainment but not us -- filmmakers who want to talk about the truth of our society?”

Remembering his struggle when he was seeking certification from the CBFC for Unfreedom, Raj says, “The CBFC reviewing committee asked me for certain cuts and told me they would then give an A certificate. I went to the FCAT and said I don’t want to cut a single frame from my film. FCAT then said, ‘forget the CBFC and their ruling, we are banning the film. You are not even allowed to cut these scenes anymore’. What usually happens is the FCAT would ask a filmmaker to follow the CBFC’s directions at worse. We can choose to agree or disagree with that. But they said we don’t agree with CBFC ruling, we are the ones banning it.”

Unfreedom movie review: Once banned, now released from its prison by Netflix

Elaborating on his choice of subject for the film, Raj says, “All artists tell the stories of their time and place. Even if the story is placed sometime in history, Padmaavat for example, we are still telling the story of our contemporary times. The story of sex, violence and identity in today’s times, how we are being crushed in the name of that is something we need to discuss. Violence in the name of religion, that’s all we see around us. I was 15 when Babri demolition took place, I was brought up in Muzaffarnagar ... I have experienced violence in the name of religion first hand.”

Unfreedom talks about terror and LGBT in India. “There is no space for us to express our sexuality except for the hetero normative, moralistic space and we are only getting more and more regressive in terms of basic freedom. There was a time when the High Court said it is not criminal to have non-heterosexual choices but then the Supreme Court came and overturned that. Unfreedom is not about individual stories but more to address this broader nightmare that we are facing. It is not about this lesbian couple struggling or the fight between the liberal and fundamentalist Muslim,” he adds.

He also shares details on his next project: “I have just finished shooting Brown, my second feature film. It is the story of an Indian arriving in America and finding a very young, 11-year-old orphan girl on the streets. It is through their lives that we see what it is to live in a violent world with no home. Only the brown man is a brown character and everyone else is white, even the topography, the film is shot in Montana.”

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First Published: Apr 17, 2018 12:28 IST