September 1, 2008

Red Tape

Ajit Abhyankar

Government of India
Ministry of Human Resources Development
Department of Culture
Films Division
New Films Subdivision
No. B1452/234/2003, dtd. 15/01/2000

Shri B.R.Chopra,
Film Director,

Ref: Film story submitted by you, regarding financing of films by Govt. of India; Your letter dtd. 23/12/1997.

The undersigned is directed to refer the aforementioned letter and state that the Government of India (GOI) has examined your proposal for financing a film titled ''Mahabharat”. The VHLC (Very High Level Committee) constituted for this purpose has been in consultation with the HRC (Human Rights Commission), NCFW (National Commission for Women) and LC (Labour Commission), in addition to various Ministries and State Governments, and have formed definitive opinions about the script. Their observations are below:

1. In the script submitted by you it is shown that there were two sets of cousins, namely, the 'Kauravas', numbering one hundred, and the 'Pandavas', numbering five or six. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has pointed out that these numbers are high, well above the norm prescribed for families by them. It is brought to your kind attention that when the Government is spending massive amounts for promoting Family Planning in due earnest, this indiscretion will send erroneous signals to the general public. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that there may be only three 'Kauravas' and one 'Pandava'.

2. The MPA (Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs) has raised an issue whether it is suitable to depict kings and emperors in this democratic age. Therefore, it is suggested that the 'Kauravas' may please be depicted as Honourable Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha) and the 'Pandava' may please be depicted as Honourable Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha). The ending of the film shows the victory of the said 'Pandavas' over the said 'Kauravas'. The ending may be suitably modified so none of the Honourable Members of Parliament is shown as being inferior to other Honourable Members of Parliament.

3. The Ministry of Science and Technology has observed that the manner of birth of 'Kauravas' is suggestive of human cloning, a technology banned in India. This may be changed to normal birth.

4. The National Commission for Women has objected that the father of the 'Pandavas', one Sri 'Pandu', is depicted as bigamous, and also there is only one wife for the 'Pandavas' in common. Therefore suitable changes may be made in the said script so that the said Sri 'Pandu' is not depicted as bigamous. However, with the reduction in number of 'Pandavas' as suggested above, the issue of polyandry can be addressed without further trouble.

5. The Commission for the Physically Challenged has observed that the portrayal of the visually impaired character 'Dhritarashtra' is derogatory. Therefore, the said character may not be shown as visually impaired.

6. It is felt that showing the 'Pandava' and the 'Kauravas' as gamblers will be anti-social and counter-productive as it might encourage gambling. Therefore, the said 'Pandava' and 'Kauravas' may be shown to have engaged in horse racing or cricket. (Hon. Supreme Court has held horse racing and cricket as not to be gambling).

7. The 'Pandavas' are shown as working in the King Virat's employment without receiving any salary. According to the Human Rights Commission, this amounts to bonded labour and may attract provisions of The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. This may be corrected at once.

8. In the ensuing war, one character by the name Sri 'Abhimanyu' has been shown as fighting. The National Labour Commission has observed that, war being a hazardous industry, and the said character being 16 years old, this depiction will be construed as a case of child labour. Also there is no record of his being paid any compensation. This may also be deemed to be violatory of the provisions of The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and Minimum Wages Act, 1948. Such references in the film may be removed.

9. In pursuance of the Memorandum of Ministry of Finance regarding austerity measures, it is informed that in the battlefield sequences only ten soldiers may be allowed for each side. Also, all the characters may be shown to have obtained a valid license under the Arms Act, 1959, as well as the Indian Arms Act, 1878.

You are, therefore, requested to modify your otherwise meritorious script along the aforementioned lines and resubmit it (notarized in triplicate) to the undersigned at the earliest for the Government's consideration.

Under Secretary

About the Author: Ajit Abhyankar is from a family of IAS & IFS members. Currently he is Senior Faculty at CEC Pune University.

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