KOLKATA, India — Leela Samson, chair of India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), has resigned her position after a film previously rejected by her panel was cleared for release. Several of her board members have also resigned.
“MSG: Messenger of God,” co-directed by Jeetu Arora and spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Sing Ji Insan, who also stars in the film as well as having written and composed it, carries anti-drug and anti-corruption messages. The CBFC board had decided not to issue certification to the film on the grounds that it showed Insan performing miracles and promoted superstition. However, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal overruled the CBFC decision and cleared it for release.
Samson accused the CBFC of being corrupt and also said that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting routinely interfered in its operations, a charge that the junior minister in the department, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, has denied. In August 2014, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation arrested CBFC chief executive Rakesh Kumar on alleged bribery charges.
Samson and her board’s three-year term had ended in May 2014, but it was since extended by the Narendra Modi-led government.
In 2013, Samson told Variety: “There is an appellate body that can take a decision on whether a particular film is wrongly certified. I think politics does impinge upon the freedom of art expression and is wrong.” About the CBFC she said then: “It is independent and not a political body representing any party. It should be allowed to do its job.”
Meanwhile, the film’s soundtrack has sold 10 million units. Apart from being a guru, Insan is a popular musician who sells out stadiums for his live concerts. The film’s release has been pushed back from January 16 to January 23.