Chennai Spy

Thursday, May 18, 2006

"Da Vinci Code" decision today

Information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi on Wednesday tried to distance himself and his ministry from the controversy over The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard, by saying that a final decision “will be taken by the Censor Board of India.”

The decision on the film is expected to be taken by Thursday evening. As for his “personal opinion”, the minister, who attended the special screening at the Films Division auditorium at Mahadev Road here along with senior I&B officials on Wednesday afternoon, said: “As a work of fiction, it was okay.

At the same time, playing safe, with a section of Christians in the country up in arms over the film, Mr Das Munshi said the “ministry will not decide the issue.” On his decision to watch the film, the minister said, however, that “whenever there are issues sensitive to a particular community, the ministry can always be referred to.” Along with Mr Das Munshi, the film was also watched by members of the Catholic Bishops Association. The government had organised the special screening of the film, due to premiere at the Cannes film festival also on Wednesday, for Catholic groups which are demanding a ban on it.

The censor board had earlier approved the film, and without any cuts. It had just insisted that a disclaimer that it was a work of fiction — be at the beginning of the movie. The special review committee which had examined the film included a number of prominent Catholics. It was after this that Mr Das Munshi and his ministry had stepped in and put a brake on the movie’s release in India this Friday.

Based on Dan Brown’s novel that suggests that Jesus Christ had married Mary Magdalene and started a family, the $125-million production starring Tom Hanks had been set for release in India along with most of the world on May 19.

Stepping out of the screening, Father Donald D’Souza, deputy secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said that he and other Catholic representatives would submit their response to the ministry on Thursday. Speaking to the media before the screening, however, he had wanted a “complete ban on the movie”. After the screening, he refused to elaborate further.

“We have seen the film with members of the community and they will submit their views to us by noon tomorrow, after which the Central Board of Film Certification will analyse them and come out with a decision by the evening,” the minister said. For Mr Das Munshi, the film’s release would be decided on the basis of the feedback from religious groups.

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