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article imageIndian censor board blocks documentary film on Kashmir Special

By Subir Ghosh     Dec 23, 2010 in World
India's Central Board of Film Certification has refused a censor certificate to Inshallah, Football, a documentary film about an aspiring footballer who was denied the right to travel abroad on the pretext that father was a militant in the 1990s.
The film's director Ashvin Kumar said, "This morning (December 23) I received a call from the Indian censor board stating that after having referred the film to a revision panel, censor certification will not be given. We have not been asked to make any cuts. The reason given was that it spoke against the Indian government and that it was one-sided."
Inshallah, Football is about 18-year-old Basharat Baba. His father, Bashir, was a much-wanted leader of the armed group Hizbul Mujahideen. When he left his home in Kashmir to join the training camps in Pakistan in the early 1990s, his son Basharat was barely two months old. Today Bashir does not wield the gun and has spent months in jail, but his son was made to pay a price by Indian authorities.
Filmmaker Ashvin Kumar gestures on location.
Filmmaker Ashvin Kumar gestures on location.
Ashvin Kumar / Alipur Films
Basharat belongs to a new generation of Kashmiris, having grown up under the shadow of a protracted conflict. His passion is football, and has been coached by Juan Marcos Troia, an Argentinean national and FIFA accredited football coach by profession. Marcos aspires to breed world class players from Kashmir.
Untitled
Ashvin Kumar / Alipur Films
Marcos runs a football academy called International Sports Academy Trust; and an exchange programme to Brazil for his most talented players. Basharat was one of chosen few, but was denied a passport by the Government of India. The passport in question did come through after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah intervened. How that happened is what Inshallah, Football tells through Bashir's recollections and Basharat's travails.
The film has been critically acclaimed and won a 'Special Jury Distinction' prize at the just-concluded Dubai International Film Festival. But back home, it has met with official hostility. Said Kumar, "Earlier, we ran into similar trouble with the censor board who refused to allow a private screening of the same film scheduled on November 2 at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. The chairperson of the censor board flew to New Delhi from Mumbai on November 1 just to watch our film, a day before the screening."
Basharat lends a helping hand.
Basharat lends a helping hand.
Ashvin Kumar / Alipur Films
In November, however, the screening was not scuttled. "On that occasion we were given permission to screen the film provided we added a disclaimer in the beginning of the film that stated that the views expressed therein were that of the filmmaker. We complied with this direction. We were also given a verbal assurance that certification will now only be a formality as the CEO has reviewed and passed the film. However, having submitted the film for censorship about two weeks ago, we hear now that it will not be allowed to screen in India."
Kumar, whose earlier film Little Terrorist was nominated for an Oscar in the Live Action Short category, wanted to make a feature film on Kashmir. But when he heard about Basharat, he thought it was highly unjust that someone could be denied a passport for no fault of his own. So he decided to make a documentary about it, and in the bargain tell the story of Kashmiris to the rest of the world.
Now that the story has been told, the censor hurdle may not be that easy to tackle. Said Kumar, "The Indian censor board is a board of film certification. It should restrain itself to that role rather than extend its definition to being a moral guardian, arbitrator or conscience of the nation. It is every citizen's right to express, particularly highlight aspects of our democracy, governance and society in a free and open manner." Like Basharat, Kumar too might now have to hope for an intervention from the highest level.
The coach makes a point to his wards.
The coach makes a point to his wards.
Ashvin Kumar / Alipur Films
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