How Censor Board is ensuring Om Puri's last film based on a controversial political theme is stalled

Producer of Rambhajan Zindabad, Khalid Kidwai explains the entire timeline of how Censor Board made sure they did not get certificate for the Om Puri film

Later actor Om Puri starrer Rambhajjan Zindabaad is stuck with Censor Board for long now. After turning down the certificate to the film with claims that the film has a character who looks like PM Narendra Modi, chief Pahlaj Nihalani, in a recent interview said that Rambhajjan Zindabaad has a lot of demeaning dialogues for women. Talking to Rediff a while back, he said, “It’s extremely vulgar. The language used for women is inexcusably coarse. It trivialises rape by showing women being given ‘compensation’ for their ordeal. We cannot allow this film to be certified.”

Nihalani also claimed that the makers of the film are taking advantage of Om Puri’s name by publicising it as the actor’s last film. InUth talked to the producer of the film, Khalid Kidwai who was in Delhi to reach to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal against the CBFCs refusal to clear the film.

Here’re a few facts that the producer told us to justify how the Film Certificate Board is trying to create unnecessary trouble for them:

1. Rambhajjan Zindabad was initially slated to release on 13th January. And this was the date that they had put in the trailers of the film. After applying for the certificate on 9th December, the first screening of the film by CBFC took place on January 10. The Central Board has to review a film within 21 days of the application.

2. After the first screening, the RO (Regional Officer) of the board, Raju Vaidye asked the makers to remove a certain logo from the prints of the film and also hinted on the character whose looks reminded him of PM Modi. The certificate was denied.

3. The makers applied for the screening once again and the film got reviewed for the second time on 19th January. This was the revised version of the film sans logo in the prints. This time, after watching the initial 20 minutes of the film, Pahlaj Nihalani denied certificate saying that it has ‘double meaning dialogues’. No rejection letter was given to the makers.

4. On 21st January, the makers had a meeting with Nihalani where he asked them to go to the Revising committee, assuring that the film will be reviewed and a discussion will happen if there are issues in its clearance.

5. Meanwhile, the makers pushed the release date of the film from 13th January to 3rd February and informed the Board about the changes. After struggling for days, a rejection letter was given to the makers on 25th January. The Revising committee, after watching the film on 7th February, denied certificate to the film without organising any conversation with the makers.

Rambhajan Zindabad still

6. They tried to talk to Nihalani who then advised them to approach FCAT in Delhi. In order to apply for the tribunal, the makers had to submit the final rejection letter from the Censor Board along with other documents. The rejection letter that the makers finally got was dated back to 19th January.

On Nihalani’s claim of taking advantage of Om Puri’s name, Kidwai has a strong take. He said that he had given money to the late actor to perform in his film and he has always maintained that Rambhajjan Zindabaad is the last film where Om Puri had featured in lead role. He also mentioned that the actor was very proud to be a part of the film and he had even booked his dates from 23–28 January for the promotion of the film. In fact, visiting the sets of Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss 10 on 8th January was also finalised.

What is Rambhajjan Zindabaad?

The film is a satire on a political scheme launched in Uttar Pradesh a while back where a rape victim gets a monetary compensation after registration of a FIR. As per the research done by the makers of the film, a lot of people took advantage of this scheme and used it as a shortcut to earn money. The language used in the film is that from a local village background. Elaborating on the same, producer Kidwai told us:

We have tried to make our film very real and therefore we have used a desi accent. Most of it is like how you see in TV show — Bhabi Ji Ghar Par Hain. The local UP style has been incorporated and we don’t think Censor Board should have had any objections with that. And even if there were issues, we could have been asked to remove those dialogues or replace those chunks with some other scenes. But no body from the team had any conversation with us. We asked them to give us suggestions and tell us what is the problem. All we got from Mr Nihalani was an advise that we should move to the Tribunal and Censor Board can’t clear the film.

Rambhajan Zindabad still 2

In one of the other statements made by Nihalani, he blamed the makers saying that they used the Censor Board to get publicity. Kidwai responded:

No filmmaker spends so much of money into a film because he wants Censor Board to promote his film. We are small producers. I have only had enough money to invest in making a film. Organising screenings again and again, changing the release date of the film and releasing new trailers and posters again, travelling to Delhi, visiting the tribunal again and again on every hearing is a pain. I made a film to highlight a problem in a section of the society, not to keep struggling to get it released.

The proceedings in the Tribunal are still on and the sword of ‘no release date’ is still lingering on Rambhajjan Zindabaad.