Filmmaker Suman Ghosh’s film Aadhaar, which was slated for release in February, has hit a roadblock.
According to Ghosh, a week before its release he was informed by the film’s producers – Reliance-owned Jio Studios — that its release has been put on indefinite hold over objections raised by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar cards. UIDAI had also proposed 28 cuts in the film, he was told. The film had been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in 2019 and had its world premiere at Busan International Film Festival that year.
“In 2019, my film had been certified. I was asked to make three cuts by Prasoon Joshi [CBFC chairperson] and I had agreed to them. My film was ready to be released, the trailer was out. Then suddenly everything is put on hold. I have not received any written correspondence from the UIDAI, and my requests to them have not elicited any response. I now decided to put this matter in the public domain as nothing was moving,” Ghosh told The Indian Express over the phone from Kolkata.
The film, which narrates the story of Pharsua, the first man in his village to get an Aadhaar card, stars Vineet Kumar Singh, Sanjay Mishra and Raghubir Yadav.
“I don’t even have a full list of the objections they have issued. Apparently, the dialogue ‘Main Aadhaar Hoon’ [I am Aadhaar] was found to be concerning. Then there is this scene where the privacy aspect of the Aadhaar number is being discussed,” said Ghosh, who has also directed The Argumentative Indian, a documentary on Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.
Sources in the UIDAI, meanwhile, said the film violates a copyright issue.
“In this regard, Drishyam films had approached UIDAI in December 2018 to seek permission for using Aadhaar name, Aadhaar logo and to shoot their movie at the UIDAI Regional Office, Ranchi,” said a source. “Since UIDAI holds copyright of Aadhaar logo, so the said request was denied and duly communicated at that point of time itself in writing. Despite this, the film was shot which, prima facie, profusely used Aadhaar name and Aadhaar logo etc. This purported to give a false impression to viewers that this movie had UIDAI support.”
“To dispel such wrong impressions, the UIDAI requested the producers to keep a disclaimer in the movie conveying that the UIDAI doesn’t support or endorse this movie in any way. The UIDAI has no comments to offer on the artistic content of the movie.”
The UIDAI’s objections had come before the tenure of its current CEO Dr Saurabh Garg, who replaced Sanjeev Kumar in March.
Ghosh said he has not received any written correspondence from the UIDAI and only the producers, Jio Studios, had been kept in the loop. Jio Studios did not respond to The Indian Express for a comment.
These developments took place before the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal was abolished, and the new Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 was thrown open to the public. The new amendment empowers the central government to change certification provided by the CBFC.
“It’s very concerning. I have no recourse. Where do I go? I am ready to have a discussion with the UIDAI. Also, as the film has already been cleared for screening purposes, how can an additional government body have so much power to stay the release of a film?,” said Ghosh.