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Copyright issue, says UIDAI, days after ‘Aadhaar’ maker says release of film put on hold

Directed by Suman Ghosh, the film was cleared by the censor board in 2019 and premiered in Busan the same year. But its India release in February was stalled over objections by UIDAI.

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New Delhi: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar cards to the citizens of India, has objected to the release of filmmaker Suman Ghosh’s film Aadhaar over a copyright issue and the use of the Aadhaar logo, ThePrint has learnt.

Ghosh told news agency PTI Sunday that his film Aadhaar — already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification in 2019 — was abruptly “pulled out” a week before its release in February this year, following objections raised by UIDAI. Sources in UIDAI, however, told ThePrint Thursday its objection had nothing to do with the artistic content of the movie.

The film starring Mukkabaaz actor Vineet Kumar Singh and co-produced by Jio Studios and Drishyam Films was to have released in theatres in February this year, followed by an OTT release two months later.

Speaking to ThePrint Thursday, Ghosh said he decided to “open up to the media” about the delay in the film’s release because nothing was “moving forward”.

“Initially, I thought it would be a normal process where I can contest this (the UIDAI objection) and my views would be heard and we could move forward, (but) nothing has been moving forward for the past six months,” he said.

According to Ghosh, he was told by the producers that UIDAI has proposed 28 cuts in the film that revolves around the experience of a character named Pharsua, who is the first to enroll for an Aadhaar card in his village. However, due to the village priest’s premonitions about his wife’s health, he tries getting his unique identification (UID) number changed.

“Drishyam films had approached UIDAI in December 2018 to seek permission to use the Aadhaar name and logo and to shoot their film at the UIDAI regional office in Ranchi. Since UIDAI holds the copyright of the Aadhaar logo, the said request was denied and duly communicated in writing. Despite this, the film was shot which, prima facie, has profusely used the Aadhaar name and Aadhaar logo. This purported to giving a false impression to viewers that this movie had UIDAI support,” said a source in UIDAI.

To dispel this “wrong impression” that the movie could convey, UIDAI had requested the filmmakers to include a disclaimer in the movie declaring that the UIDAI does not either support or endorse the movie in any way, the source added.

Ghosh. however, said he was not “aware” of the copyright issue, “nor was I privy to it”. As for the disclaimer, he said: “I am glad they (UIDAI) have given a solution. I am sure my producers will gladly put the disclaimer.”

Also read: Why we made Aadhaar a number, and not a card

The story so far

The idea for the film, said Ghosh, came to him in 2016. “Ever since, I have been working on the screenplay.”

Aadhaar was cleared by the CBFC in 2019 and had its world premiere at the Busan Film Festival the same year. The film, however, was never released in India.

Ghosh, a professor of economics who has also directed the National Award-winning Bengali feature Podokkhep and documentary The Argumentative Indian, said then CBFC chief  Prasoon Joshi had in 2019 asked for three cuts in the film, and that was done. While the CBFC cleared film after that, it was later indefinitely put on hold.

Ghosh said he had not received any written correspondence from the UIDAI, and that his requests for a formal letter of objection has not been answered. When told by ThePrint what the UIDAI sources said about copyright infringement and their request for a disclaimer to ensure that the film does not convey the impression of being endorsed by the agency, the filmmaker said: “I am thankful for the clarification, it is very encouraging.”

Also read: Modi govt now plans a ‘touchless’ vaccination process, with Aadhaar-based facial recognition

The call for 28 cuts

In the film, one of the characters has a line: “Main Aadhaar Hoon (I am Aadhaar).” According to Ghosh, UIDAI officials are believed to have found this demeaning to the Aadhaar system, and it’s one of the ‘cuts’ demanded by the agency.

Another cut requested pertains to a scene in which a villager is trying to understand the privacy concerns regarding Aadhaar and asks if the government would now be aware of the happenings in people’s bathrooms, Ghosh told PTI.

The request for the cuts, said Ghosh, came after UIDAI officials saw the film in January. Sources in the agency ThePrint spoke to, however, refused to answer any questions on the subject of cuts in the movie.

Maintaining that his film was not propaganda against Aadhaar, the filmmaker said: “This film is a celebration of our country. If one sees the film, they will know all this is unnecessary noise. Through the Aadhaar card issue, I explore India.”

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Modi govt plans ‘One Nation, One Address’ to make mapping easier, improve a range of services


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