NEW DELHI: The controversy arising out of censor board chief Leela Samson’s resignation drama brought the spotlight on the way the country’s premier film certification body was being run. The very composition of the outfit shows the ideological bent of the CBFC, which was packed with activists, retired babus, Congress MPs and party office-bearers, relatives of Congress leaders, TV anchors and journalists working on official Congress bodies.
The nine members who sent signed letters to the government announcing their resignations include Ira Bhaskar, Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma, Rajeev Masand, Sekharbabu Kancherla, Shubhra Gupta and T G Thyagarajan. Separately, Malayalam film director Shaji N Karun, M K Raina and Anjum Rajabali are also learnt to have resigned.
Of the 23 members, 19 were appointed by the then Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni in May 2011, and remaining by her successor Manish Tewari. The tenure of the 19 members ended last year, but they continued since the NDA Government had not appointed a new board. Among those whose tenure is still on includes former I&B secretary Raghu Menon, two Congress leaders -- Chandramukhi Sharma and Santokh Singh Chaudhary, Nandini Sardesai and Aseem Kayastha.
Sharma said he would not resign and instead attacked Samson saying she should bring out evidence of corruption and interference instead of making allegations. Sharma is a former NSUI and Congress vice-president of the Chandigarh unit. Chaudhary is the Congress MP from Jalandhar.
The resignations started pouring in after Samson quit. They included that of former journalist Pankaj Sharma, who is currently secretary of All India Congress Committee’s Hindi Department and film company owner Nikhil Alva. He is the son of former Rajasthan Governor and Congress leader Margret Alva. His brother Niveth is currently an office-bearer in the Karnataka Congress.
Ira Bhaskar was the first one to vocally support Samson and remark that she had put in her papers after the controversy broke on Friday. Bhaskar teaches film studies at the Left-dominated Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Lora Prabhu, wife of a TV journalist, currently runs the NGO Cequin, along with Congress leader and former minister Sachin Pilot’s wife Sara Pilot. Rajeev Masand is a film critic working with a private TV news channel and writes for various magazines. Shubhra Gupta is also a film critic and a journalist who has served on several film award juries. Pankaj Vohra is a political journalist based in Delhi.
Karun quit on Saturday in support of Samson, saying, “I emailed my resignation to the Chairperson. It is quite natural that when the Chairperson steps down, the team which worked together under her also resigns. My information is that as many as 14 CBFC members have already put in their resignations.”
Mamang Dai is an author and activist from Arunachal Pradesh. K C Sekhar Babu is a Telugu film producer. Thyagarajan, a trained financial expert, is also a producer of Tamil movies and was the office-bearer of South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce. Arundhati Nag is a famous theatre and film personality and has been a member of Indian People’s Theatre Association.
Other members of the board are theatre artists M K Raina and Amal Allana and columnist Anees Jung.
Samson, who had in the past served on various cultural bodies, had threatened to quit as censor board chief after the I&B Ministry under Tewari refused to accede to her demand of giving an extension to then outgoing CEO Pankaja Thakur.