Guneet Monga on FCAT: Freedom of speech is being taken away

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Imagine not meeting Ratna Pathak Shah’s Usha buaji from Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016). Or not being introduced to the tender story of friendship in No Fathers in Kashmir (2019). The FCAT was instrumental in clearing the two films, among countless others, after their makers had a run-in with the censor board, thus making Hindi cinema all the richer.  

A still from Haraamkho

Several filmmakers expressed their dismay at the news of the statutory body’s abolition overnight. Director Kushan Nandy, whose Babumoshai Bandookbaaz (2017) was given close to 48 cuts by the censor board, then headed by Pahlaj Nihalani, remembers how the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer found its rightful place on the big screen after eight minor cuts, thanks to the FCAT. “The CBFC had a problem with a kissing scene and the language — this, when we had [employed] the language used in Uttar Pradesh. It had become personal, which is why a body like the FCAT was important. It resolved the issues with a liberal approach,” says Nandy. The director recounts that after the film’s screening, the matter was resolved in a few hours. “They understood that the CBFC had judged in an arbitrary manner, and there was nothing defamatory in the film.”

Guneet Monga and Kushan Nandy

He echoes the sentiments of filmmakers Vishal Bhardwaj, Hansal Mehta and actor Richa Chadha who, on social media, expressed that it is a sad day for Indian cinema. “Freedom of speech is the most important for filmmakers, and I feel like it’s being taken away. How many filmmakers will have the time and money to go to high court?” Producer Guneet Monga, whose 2015 offering Haraamkhor was banned by the CBFC until the Tribunal intervened, urges the industry to initiate a dialogue. “It is confusing for a body to be removed overnight. Was there a discussion before? This is a question I would like to be answered,” she states.

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