Anand Patwardhan, June 2, 2002War and Peace a three hour long documentary by Anand Patwardhan focusing on the dangers of nuclear war, won two major awards at the recently concluded 7th Mumbai (India) International Film Festival the Best Film/Video of the festival and the International Jury Award. The video begins and ends with the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi.For the last month and a half we made attempts to get a Censor Certificate but were stalled. What we first thought to be mere bureaucratic delay may well be something more deliberate. On 1st June the Sudhir Yardi Memorial Trust had obtained special permission from the Police and Entertainment Tax Departments to do a non-commercial screening of our video at the YB Chavan Centre in Mumbai as it was an award winning film. On May 30, Mr. Singhala, Regional Officer of the Censor Board, Mumbai rang the Chavan Centre threatening dire consequences if the screening went ahead.
I phoned Mr. Singhala to find out why special permission could not be granted for the screening. He denied permission and stated that the Censor process would take its own time. He also pointed out that our video would run into trouble because he had seen the transcripts. I was shocked. Why had the Regional Officer seen our transcripts before officially constituting an examining committee? Is that the act of an impartial officer ?
I also pointed out that the Films Division of India which comes under the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting had not only awarded our video but had obtained permission to screen all award winning films and videos of MIFF 2002 in Kolkata on regardless of whether they had censor certificates. “War and Peace” was to be their inaugural film on May 31. Mr. Singhala laughed and said “Let us see how they show the film”.
He was right. This Regional Officer has powers that go beyond his region. I learnt on May 31 that our video had been withdrawn at the very last minute from the Kolkata festival. The Films Division could not use the censor certificate argument here as many films they were showing fell into this category. So they told the press that our video “had not arrived.” But we have proof that the Films Division signed a receipt for the video two weeks ago!
I do not blame officials of the Films Division of anything more than wanting to protect their jobs. They were going to show “War and Peace” in all sincerity until rudely stopped by some invisible force. This invisible force has in the last 15 years taken our country to the abyss. I want this invisible force to come clean and reveal itself to the public gaze. Let it openly declare that it does not believe in democracy or in the values propagated by Mahatma Gandhi. The values of non-violence and religious tolerance are what “War and Peace” celebrates and hopes to rekindle in this psychologically and physically scarred region of the globe.
Anand Patwardhan, June 2, 2002