An Indian journalist’s documentary film on the Maoist uprising in Nepal has finally won its battle with the Indian censors after a panel, headed by veteran Bollywood actress Sharmila Tagore, gave it the green light.
It was a moment of triumph for Anand Swaroop Verma, whose 125-minute documentary, Flames of the Snow, was approved for public screenings by the Revising Committee of India’s Central Board of Film Certification without being asked to delete any scenes.
Last month, citing the growing Maoist violence in India, the Board had declined to allow the film, saying “any justification or romanticisation of the ideology of extremism or of violence, coercion, intimidation in achieving its objectives would not be in the public interest, particularly keeping in view the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country”.
However, Verma, who is considered close to Nepal’s Maoist leadership, challenged the decision and the film was viewed in New Delhi last week by six members of the Board’s Revising Committee, including its chairman and veteran actor Sharmila Tagore.
“Finally I won the battle,” a jubilant Verma told IANS on the eve of flying to Kathmandu Friday to hold consultations with Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and other senior leaders of the formerly banned party.
“I got the certificate without a single cut.”
The Board however asked Verma to add a disclaimer, saying the views expressed in the film by various persons underlying the Maoist ideology were those of the author and producer and that the documentary was not against any person or country.
In reply, Verma pointed out that the documentary carried interviews with 16 people, including two prominent leaders of the Nepal Maoist party, and a Nepal Police officer.
“They are expressing their own views,” Verma told the Board. “The author or producer can’t put his words into their mouth. This is not a feature film where author provides them dialogues to read before camera. This is a documentary film.”
Finally, a compromise was reached with a new disclaimer that says the substance of the documentary has been compiled from various media publications. The views expressed are those of the individuals interviewed and it is not the intention of this documentary to offend the sensibilities or sentiments of any country or individual.
The film begins with the founding of the Shah dynasty in Nepal in 1770 by the first powerful king of the clan, Prithvi Narayan Shah. It covers nearly 250 years of absolute rule, first by the kings and then by the Rana prime ministers, punctuated with people’s rebellions.
It ends with the formal abolition of monarchy after a historic election in 2008 that saw the Maoists emerge victorious to head the new government of Nepal.
Flames of the Snow is directed by Verma and New Delhi-based Ashish Srivastava, formerly associated with Discovery channel, and produced by a Kathmandu-based human rights organisation, Group for International Solidarity.
It includes an interview with Maoist supremo Prachanda, describing the genesis of the armed movement in 1996.
The documentary made its debut in Kathmandu in April 2008, during the last days of the Maoist government, when it was watched by Prachanda and other Maoist leaders.
Now Verma wants to hold public screenings of the documentary in Nepal as well.
Ironically, while Flames of the Snow passed unscathed at the hands of the Indian censors, the Nepal Censor Board asked Verma for a cut.
A brief scene of unrest that shows Palestinians burning Israeli and American flags will not be shown during the screenings in Nepal as the Nepal government’s foreign policy is to maintain good relations with all nations and 2010 marks the 50th year of diplomatic ties between Kathmandu and Tel Aviv.
The Indian censors’ decision comes as Indian film director Ananth Mahadevan’s Red Alert: the War Within, a film focusing on the impact of the armed movement in rural India, released in India this month.