India’s Election Commission has halted the theatrical release of “PM Narendra Modi” and two other biographical films on the grounds that they potentially distort the electoral level playing field. They cannot be shown in India until after the polls close on May 19.
The decision comes just one day before the films were to have been released, and one day before polls open in the world’s largest ever election.
A court earlier approved the release of “Modi” and on Tuesday the film received a U certificate from India’s Central Board of Film Certification, with no cuts and just minor changes.
But in a ruling published on Wednesday, the Election Commission said that it had received complaints about “Modi,” “Lakshmi’s NTR,” a biopic about former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, and “Udyama Simham,” a biopic of incumbent Telangana Chief Minister Kalvakuntla Chandrashekhar Rao. It ruled that they contravene the Model Code of Conduct, which governs the massive plebiscite.
“Any biopic material in the nature of biography/hagiography sub-serving the purposes of any political entity or any individual entity connected to it which is intended to, or which has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections, should not be displayed in electronic media including cinematograph during the MCC,” said the Commission. The 7-page order prevents the content being displayed in electronic and print media.
It is unclear whether overseas distributors will go ahead with their planned releases. In the U.K., “Modi” was passed uncut by censors. And, as of Wednesday lunchtime, cinemas in London continued to show it among their Friday screenings.