Bombay HC refuses to stay Santa Banta movie

Court was hearing petition filed by Sikh leader claiming the movie poked fun at the community and its members

The Bombay High Court yesterday refused to stay the release of Hindi movie Santa Banta Pvt Ltd, which is likely to be released on April 22. The court was hearing a petition filed by a Sikh leader, requesting a stay on the film’s release, claiming that it poked fun at the community and hurt the feelings of its members just like the Santa Banta jokes. Boman Irani and Vir Das star in the movie.

Vir Das and Boman Irani in a still from the movie
Vir Das and Boman Irani in a still from the movie

A High Court bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi told the petitioners: “The law is very clear. We can’t stop the release of the film. The Censor Board must have surely looked into the issue of public order and feelings of the community while certifying the movie.”

Petitioner Charan Singh Sapra, who is also a Congress leader from Mulund and president of the Punjabi Cultural Heritage Board, had filed the petition earlier this month through his lawyer BH Desai, citing Articles 19 (2) (decency) and 21 (protection of life and public liberty) of the Indian Constitution. “As the Censor Board does not have a Sikh member on board, they have been unable to understand the issue. The Supreme Court is already hearing a petition filed by Sikh community on Santa Banta jokes which is pending as the government is yet to reply,” Desai told the bench during yesterday’s hearing.

Desai also told the court that rights of the Sikh community had been violated and its members were being made the butt of all jokes by the filmmakers. In its defence, Censor Board counsel Kapil Hoye informed the court that the movie was certified way back in October 2015. He also stated that the petitioners were shown the movie by the filmmakers and a few cuts were also implemented. The bench refused to stay the film’s release and asked the Censor Board and the filmmakers to file an affidavit — comprising movie details — within a fortnight.


Director speak
Commenting on court’s order, director Akashdeep Sabir said, “The writ was dismissed and the court didn’t allow them to stay the film’s release. We are going ahead with its release on April 22. There is nothing offensive in the film. It is a comedy. Just because it is about Sardars doesn’t mean it is derogatory to them. I do not know why religious colours are being added to it. Why can’t a Sikh watch a film about Sardars and laugh? If they can see a Maharashtrian character Babubhai (Paresh Rawal) in Hera Pheri and laugh, similarly they can see a Sardar character in a film. As long as the film does not insult any religious beliefs, people should not seek a ban. The Censor Board has cleared it. Politically motivated people suddenly stand up asking for such measures. They need a political agenda for unnecessary issues. Are we going backwards in time? A film has fictional characters, why are they reacting to make-believe? Santa Banta is a film for kids; it is a clean, simple film. There is no adult word or any offensive dialogue. They need to see the film first before reacting.”

— As told to Shaheen Parkar

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