Was Padmavati sent hurriedly to British Censor Board out of pressure from overseas distributors?

By Manishaa R

Even as the BBFC (British Board of Film Certification) reportedly cleared Sanjay Bhansali’s Padmavati without any cuts granting it a 12-A rating, sources reveal that CBFC (Censor Board of Film Certification) has sought an explanation from the filmmaker for his hasty decision to get his film cleared in UK, pending its censorship clearance in India. CBFC chief, Prasoon Joshi was unavailable for comment. However former Censor Board chief, Pahlaj Nihalani, pointed out that Bhansali was not only accountable to CBFC but also the I & B Ministry and Commerce Ministry for his latest move, “As per the rules of the I & B Ministry, it is mandatory for every filmmaker to get a clearance from CBFC before exporting the film outside India, even if it means for overseas censor clearance. This also applies to films that are screened in film festivals. In the case of Padmavati, the film has been exported for business purpose. It appears that it was digitally transferred because if it would have been physically exported, it would have been examined for CBFC certification. Also since export of films comes under the purview of the Commerce Ministry, Bhansali will also have to furnish an explanation to the Ministry, besides the Customs Department,” Nihalani said.

The former CBFC chief added that the filmmaker was also answerable to the Indian Film Exporters Association for his decision, “This would be a matter of concern for the Exporters Association too what with members sending their films abroad without censor certification and the official clearance of the association,” he said.

The President of the Indian Film Exporters Association, Hirachand Dand, when contacted endorsed Nihalani’s point of view, “The issue is that no film can be exported without its clearance by CBFC. The rules clearly state so. It is strange how Sanjay Bhansali managed to export his film discreetly. It is technically illegal.” However he did not deny that there had been instances in the past where filmmakers had got their films cleared overseas, when the CBFC clearance was delayed in India, “There have been some examples of makers getting their films cleared overseas when there is a delay in the clearing process in India. Some filmmakers also do it out of pressure from the overseas distributors,” Dand added. According to him, irrespective of the BBFC clearance, there is no question of the film being released overseas, before it is released in India. “That’s because of the fear of rampant piracy. No filmmaker will ever make that mistake. So what was the whole hurry about getting the film cleared in UK?”, Hirachand Dand asked.

“What was the whole hurry about getting Padmavati film cleared in UK, knowing that it could not be released on December 1?” Hirachand Dand- President, Indian Film Exporters Association 

However the big question is what led Bhansali to take such a step knowing that it was pointless releasing his film in UK or any other country, before it could be released in India? There is also a contention that Bhansali must have submitted his film to BBFC (British Board of Film Certification) under pressure from the overseas distributors, Paramount Pictures, who had planned a grand worldwide release for the film. Also a source points out that Bhansali was optimistic of meeting the December 1 deadline of the release, despite protests, hoping that the CBFC would watch it on a priority basis, “It appears that Bhansali must have submitted the film to the UK censor board, before the makers announced their decision to defer the film. Prior to that, Viacom Pictures had reiterated time and again that they would stick by the December 1 deadline for release. They had clearly not anticipated that this kind of trouble for the film,” a source revealed.

As of now, there is an uncertainty about the release date of the film in India, with protests only intensifying and three states calling for a ban on the film. Sources point out that it  now entirely the CBFC’s prerogative as to how it tackles the issue and clears the film, after which the makers can look at pacifying protesting groups.