Mumbai, Dec 23 (IANS) Bollywood, the world's second largest film industry, is hassled by the increasing number of litigations pending against it in various courts of India.
Many in the industry that produces about 1,000 films a year point out that several public bodies, NGOs, individuals, political pressure groups and vested interests across the county regularly slap cases against films on flimsy grounds. They make either the producer or the director and in some cases even the artistes respondents in their suits.
When respondents are summoned to wherever the cases have been filed, most often they cannot attend the hearings because of prior commitments and engagements. But the courts insist that when summoned, the respondents must attend.
The Bandra court in Mumbai Dec 14 reprimanded actor-turned-filmmaker Pooja Bhatt for not appearing for the hearing of a two-year-old PIL filed against her for encouraging obscenity through her 2004 film 'Rog'.
The court even asked her to sign a bond and told her that henceforth she would attend the hearings of the case whenever summoned.
Many in the industry feel that such cases drag on for a long time and end up harassing the defendants. They say once films are certified for release by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) - or Censor Board, as it is commonly known - nobody associated with movies should be dragged to court.
Even if anybody finds anything objectionable, cases should be filed against the CBFC for its alleged lapses, if any, and for granting the release certificate, they say.
Pooja supports the demand. 'If the government accepts the proposal, it will save time, money and bother. We will be better off making movies rather than spending time attending court hearings in different parts of the country,' she told IANS.
The question that the industry is now worried about now: Is censorship still relevant? Can anyone disrupt the screening of a film as soon as it is released after obtaining the CBFC certificate, or drag its maker to court?
Says Anil Sharma, producer-director of 'Gadar, Ek Prem Katha' and 'Apne': 'If one goes by the rule, it is unjustified to file a case against a film after it has been certified by the Censor Board for public viewing.'
Speaking to IANS, Sharma said that the Board's job is to ensure that nothing objectionable goes into a film. After it clears a film and categorises it according to its ratings (U, UA and A), if anybody finds anything wrong in the film, the finger should be pointed at the Board and not at its producer, artistes or the director.
'Personally, I feel people have to be enlightened about it through the media to avoid unnecessary problems,' Sharma added.
Recently, a Dalit group in Madhya Pradesh filed a case in a Jabalpur court against Yash Raj Films' latest release 'Aaja Nachle'. It took objection to the word 'mochi' (cobbler, a caste name) used in the lyrics of one of the songs from the film.
Strangely enough, besides the film's producer, director and the lyricist, it also made the film's leading lady, Madhuri Dixit, a respondent.
The Jabalpur court summoned Madhuri for a hearing at a time when she was preparing to fly back to Denver, USA. She was compelled to seek deferment of the hearing. The case has since been settled after Yash Raj Films agreed to delete the offending word from the song.
The petitioners' contention was, since Madhuri headed the film's cast, she should have known that the word used in the song was insulting to a section of a Dalit community. The actress was perplexed for being made respondent because she had nothing do with the lyrics of the song penned by lyricist Jaideep Mika.
Some political activists in Indore had moved court against actor Aamir Khan in April this year for allegedly insulting the sanctity of the Indian tricolour.
Petitioners living far away from Mumbai often file cases against films and Bollywood personalities for cheap publicity. Taking up cudgels for a social cause is either secondary or a non-existent concern, a well-known producer said.
There have been instances of small town lawyers taking up case briefs on behalf of the aggrieved people so that they could meet film personalities when summoned for hearings.
The legal processes often succeed in getting film personalities to smaller towns and in the process, the lawyers handling the cases attain local stardom, the producer said.