13 Nov 2008, 1031 hrs IST, Yogesh Naik & Bharati Dubey, TNN
MUMBAI: The state government on Wednesday banned the Hindi film `Deshdrohi', saying it would create a divide between north Indians and Marathis.
The low-budget movie by Bhojpuri film-maker Kamal Khan, who also plays the lead, is about a north Indian migrant's struggle in Mumbai. It was banned under Section 6 of the Bombay Cinema Regulation Act, 1963, which empowers the state or police to suspend screening - even if the film is cleared by the censor board - if they think it can create a law-and-order problem.
Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gafoor said, "We had found certain scenes in `Deshdrohi' objectionable and had informed the government about it.'' He confirmed on Wednesday night that he had received the ban order from the state government.
After the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the ban should not be viewed as "moral policing''. The initial idea was to ask the producer-director to remove the controversial scenes, but finally, the cabinet decided to ban the film, he said.
Additional chief secretary (home) Chitkala Zutshi told TOI that the film dwelt on issues which had created trouble between communities in the recent past. "The government felt it would inflame passions and emotions further, hence we decided to ban the film for 60 days.''
Last week, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had asked for a ban on the film after watching its promos on TV but after Akhilesh Chaubey, MNS leader Raj Thackeray's lawyer, watched the film at a special screening, he said there was "nothing objectionable'' in it. "The promos are misleading.''
Soon after the government's announcement that it would ban the film, MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar demanded legal action against Kamal Khan, the producer-director of `Deshdrohi'.
"The exhibition of this film should be stayed for some time. It should not be screened as long as the campaign to spread hatred between communities and Marathis and North Indians does not stop,'' Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Sanjay Nirupam said.
Mumbai Congress chief Kripashankar Singh said such films spreading hatred must be banned. In fact, they should not be made. He said that Marathi plays spreading hatred should also be banned. One such play is `Bhaiyya Haath Paay Pasari', which shows how a poor north Indian migrant comes to Mumbai and ends up buying the entire building in which he had rented a room.
Producer Kamal Khan said on Wednesday that he would challenge the ban in the high court. "It's a story about an unemployed youth who is used by politicians and eventually becomes a criminal. Maybe that's what some politicians didn't like in my film.''
However, someone who has seen the film told this paper, "There are some derogatory remarks against north Indian and Maharashtrians which may create problems. Had the film not got so much publicity, it would've gone unnoticed.''
It was not easy for Khan to get censor clearance. The executive committee of the Mumbai board had given ten cuts and an `A' certificate to the film. But the producer got his film cleared from the appellate tribunal in Delhi with five cuts and a UA certificate.
Vinayak Azad, regional officer of the Censor Board in Mumbai said, "We have certified the film for public exhibition but law and order is a state subject and the state can stop the exhibition of the film if it thinks it will create a law and order problem.''
Mahesh Bhatt said, "It's a shame that those who claim to be the crusaders of freedom have violated the rights of freedom of speech of the film-maker. They are no different from any repressive regime. You can't use the pretext of law and order to ban a film.''