Screening of Dera Chief's Film Today as Censor Board Chief Quits in Protest

Screening of Dera Chief's Film Today as Censor Board Chief Quits in Protest

Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh

New Delhi:  Amid a massive row, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the chief of the religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda in Haryana, will address the press this afternoon, before a controversial film that he stars in is screened in Gurgaon, adjacent to Delhi.

Mr Singh reportedly expects a lakh people to gather for a one-hour preview of the film, "MSG: The Messenger of God" at the Leisure Valley park.

India's Censor Board chief Leela Samson has resigned protesting that the film was cleared despite the board's objections. It was cleared for screening by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal after the Censor Board found the film "not suitable for public viewing."

In her resignation letter to the Information and Broadcasting ministry, Ms Samson, an acclaimed classical dancer, alleged, "Recent cases of interference in the working of the (board) by the ministry, through an 'additional charge' CEO, and corrupt panel members has caused a degradation of values that the members of (the Censor Board) and Chairperson stood for."

She has described as "mockery" the green signal to the film, which features the Dera chief as a swashbuckling hero fighting social evils and performing miracles like a god.

The government has denied any role in the film's approval by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. "The final call lies with the tribunal and its decision should be accepted by all," Rajyavardhan Rathore, the junior minister for Information and Broadcasting, told reporters today.

"The Censor Board is an independent body and should behave as one. We as a government would like to see that SMS or letter where the chairperson or anyone else was coerced," Mr Rathore said, adding that the chairman should have registered her protest through an official letter.

After the Censor Board unanimously nixed "MSG's" release, the ministry referred it to the tribunal, which has only asked the producers to drop two words from the film.

A member of the Censor board, Nandini Sardesai, backed Ms Samson's allegations of corruption and said she was concerned that the film was cleared in haste.

"We all saw the movie. It was the collective decision of eight of us that the movie was not suitable for public viewing. Usually the Tribunal takes 15 to 30 days to clear a film, but this case was cleared within 24 hours," Ms Sardesai told NDTV.

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