FICCI speaks freely on censorship flap


MUMBAI -- The banning of films already cleared by Indian censors was a topic of heated discussion Tuesday at the kickoff of the annual FICCI Frames entertainment and media conference.

"Once a film is given a certificate by the Censor Board of India, how can it be banned? When these unexpected situations occur, the crucial opening week of a film is seriously affected," veteran filmmaker and FICCI entertainment committee chairman Yash Chopra said.

Without mentioning the rocky road faced by UTV Motion Pictures' "Jodhaa Akbar" -- which was banned by two state governments before an Indian Supreme Court ruling lifted them -- Chopra requested that Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Asha Swarup "look into this issue with the relevant authorities. After all, the censor board also is a government body, and its decision should be considered final."

In December, Chopra's Yash Raj Films faced a ban on "Aaja Nach Le" (Come Dance With Me) in the central state of Uttar Pradesh. The UP government banned the film because a section of the Dalit, or "untouchable," community protested against the lyrics of a song that allegedly made negative remarks against them.

In her speech, Swarup agreed that the issue "needs to be discussed, and we will consult with the Ministry of Home Affairs to see that in the future we don't have a law-and-order situation against a film."

When asked to elaborate on the government's plans in this area, Swarup said afterward in an interview, "At this point I can't say much, but it is a difficult issue."

The ninth annual conference features Switzerland as the partner country, a logical choice given that Bollywood films regularly film there. Many have been shot by Chopra, who has a lake named after him in Switzerland.

Swarup also said that the Indian government will spend $15 million to establish the National Museum of Moving Images, which should open this year in Mumbai. She added that the government is "finalizing formalities for an Indo-U.K. film co-production treaty," something that has been in the works for years.