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|June 27, 2001||
'India should be portrayed in the proper light!'
Basharat Peer in New Delhi
The Information & Broadcasting Ministry of the Indian Government has stepped up its efforts to prevent any portrayal of India, in cinema, that does not depict the country in 'a proper light'.
The Ministry has asked a London based film production company, Working Title Films Limited (WTFL), to modify the script of the film, The Guru, which will be shot in New Delhi.
The Ministry has reportedly ordered that the picture be shot in the presence of a Liaison Officer, who would ensure that nothing detrimental to the image of the India or Indians would be included in the film.
The film's script reportedly has a reference to a 'nun who becomes a dance teacher after one of the characters of the film leaves for America', which the ministry finds unnecessary and wants changed.
In April, the Ministry went through the script and had given the permission to shoot, albeit after imposing certain conditions: "The film will be shot strictly to the script submitted to the Ministry, subject to the condition that reference to a nun as dancer teacher, may be suitably modified, as the reference to the nun is unnecessary. If any further material deviation is considered necessary, prior permission of this Ministry will have to be obtained."
Another stipulation is that the completed film would have to be shown to the representative of the Government of India either in India or abroad, before its actual release.
The crew of The Guru, which is already in New Delhi will have to go ahead with shooting according to the Ministry's orders only.
However, the concerned officials at the I & B Ministry remain tight-lipped over the affair.
A deputy secretary told rediff.com that she was not allowed to speak of it. A joint secretary, however, said, "It has got something to do with the visa guidelines", shrugging it off as one of the many routine issues that had slipped his mind.
This move of the I & B Ministry is not a phenomenon; it took root in the late Sixties.
Renowned film-maker, Pradeep Krishen, who blew the lid on the National Film Awards controversy by resigning from the jury says: "The government has always tried to assert its right to approve the script of a foreign film to be shot in India. In fact, the government got quite strict about it after 1969, when French film-maker Lui Malle made a series of films on India not portraying it in 'proper light'. It is called the proper light syndrome."
Krishen does not believe in the government’s right to impose such restrictions. He says, "I do not think the government has the right to censor the scripts of foreign films. It is absurd nationalism of the worst kind. It does not suit its purpose."
"If the government doesn't allow somebody to shoot his film in India, he can always shoot it elsewhere or use sets. When the Indiana Jones crew approached the government for permission to shoot the film in India, the government refused. So they shot in Sri Lanka, calling it India and portrayed India in whatever light they wanted to," he adds.
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