Well known Tamil film director Gautham Vasudev Menon and Tamil actor Suriya Sivakumar on Friday joined scores of top actors, directors and film industry professionals from across the country, by voicing their opposition to the Union Government’s proposal to amend the Cinematograph Act.
Gautham Menon, in a tweet, said, “The proposed amendment to the Cinematograph Act, if implemented, will be a big blow to the freedom of Speech in Art. Please endorse below to show that we stand for Freedom of expression. I HAVE & I DO!.”
Suriya, tweeting in Tamil, said, “சட்டம் என்பது கருத்து சுதந்திரத்தை காப்பதற்காக.. அதன் குரல்வளையை நெறிப்பதற்காக அல்ல… (Laws are meant to protect freedom of speech and expression. Not to throttle its throat!)”
Gautham and Suriya are the latest to express their opposition to the Cinematograph Amendment Bill 2021, which has come in for scathing criticism from various film industry professionals from different film industries all across the country.
Already well known filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj, Vetri Maaran, Pa Ranjith, Anurag Kashyap, Farhan Akhtar, Hansal Mehta, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Rajeev Ravi, Venu, Lijo Jose Pellimery, Balaji Tharaneetharan, Thiagarajan Kumararaja, Fowzia Fathima, Jayathirtha B V, Supriyo Sen, Suman Mukhopadyay and Bhaskar Hazarika have expressed their opposition to this amendment.
So, why are filmmakers across film industries opposing the Cinematograph Amendment Bill 2021?
A letter, signed by over 3,000 top film industry professionals, explains their concerns clearly.
The letter states,”As another blow to the film fraternity, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has proposed new amendments to the Cinematograph Act under which the Central Government would have the power to revoke or recall certification of films which have already been cleared by the Censor Board.
“Undermining the sovereignty of the Censor Board and the Supreme Court, this provision will effectively give the Central Government supreme power over cinema exhibition in the country potentially endangering freedom of expression and democratic dissent.
“This will also render filmmakers powerless at the hands of the state and vulnerable to threats, vandalism and intimidation of mob censors.
“The proposal to amend the Cinematograph Act comes two months after the Centre dissolved the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) in April 2021. Now, filmmakers unhappy with the decision of the Censor Board are left with no option but to appeal in the High Courts bearing legal cost of representation and financial loss due to potential delays in film releases until the overburdened judicial system takes up the matter.
“As concerned filmmakers, academics, researchers, programmers, students, technicians, lawyers and members of the civil society, we have drafted a response to the Ministry of I & B highlighting these concerns, in addition to comments on various other sections of the proposed bill. We request you to kindly go over the cover letter and the detailed comments given in the hyperlink below. If you agree with the said comments, please endorse the statement by Thursday, July 1, 2021 and embolden our fight against authoritarian censorship.
“We also encourage you to write to the Ministry independently with any other suggestions you may have.”