Producers, AWBI resolve differences

MUMBAI: Film producers and the Animal Welfare Board of India took a step in the right direction on Wednesday, by holding a meeting to clear the air over several long standing issues.


At the heart of the discussion was a new ruling, effective December 1, 2006, that would affect all new films going on the floors. The producers met up with AWBI chairman Major General Dr R M Kharb at the Hotel Sun n Sand in Mumbai, to discuss the ruling and its implications to the film fraternity with regard to the use of animals in films.


The meeting, held especially since Dr Kharb was in town from the Chennai head office, discussed the insecurity among the producers regarding the new ruling, which requires any film that begins after December 1, to get itself registered with the AWBI before shooting commences. No no-objection certificate (NOC) will be granted after the shooting is over, as is the current practice.


Arguing on behalf of the producers, T P Agarwal, President – IMPPA (Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association) said, “It is not possible to make a Ramayana or Mahabharata today as there are restrictions on using horse carriages in films. After the diktat on smoking, this is another stifling restriction that will be manifested after the new ruling.”


Sangram Shirke, chairman of the Title Registration Committee and Film Makers’ Combine (FMC) added, “The rules are always levied against the film industry. If there is a scene to be shot in the village, we will have to show cows and buffaloes. Please don’t keep sending us letters through the government that impose such restrictions on the use of animals in films.”


Noted filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani raised a few laughs by pointing out that he paid film star Chunky Pandey Rs three lakh for his film Aankhen and Rs five lakh for the monkey who co-starred in the film. “There is no ban on manufacturing cigarettes; there is only a ban on films showcasing them! If the government is so concerned about cruelty to animals, it should first close down slaughterhouses.”


Making a case for withdrawing the necessity of permissions for use of animals in films, Nihalani said that it would affect small producers adversely.


After listening to the producers, Kharb clarified that the December 1 ruling would be applicable only to films that would commence from that date. “If a film has started shooting before that, it will not be in the purview of the ruling, though I would advise them to be registered with the AWBI. Animal rights are recognized all over the world, even at the UN level, where five countries including India are charting out an Animal Rights Declaration.”


“As per the Performing Animals Rules 2001, there is registration required only for a ‘trained animal that is required for performing in a film’.” Kharb said. He assured that there is no registration required for shots that have random passing animals in the background, like for example, cows in a village scene. He also said that the onus for registering an animal lay with the animal owner/ trainer and not with the producer.”


After outlining the entire procedure that is to be followed for a film to be cleared by the AWBI and the Censor Board, Kharb also noted the producers’ request for an AWBI office in Mumbai to save them the hassle of travel.


He assured the producers that the request would be looked into. “The performing rules are being supervised now by a committee comprising myself, representatives from the circus, and media representatives. In the last few months, we have seen more than 600 clips, and minor alterations were suggested in just about 10 or 15 cases.”


Among the prominent producers present at the meeting were Vashu Bhagnani, Ratan Jain, Ramesh Taurani, Vikas Mohan, editor of Super Cinema and VP of Association of Motion Pictures and TV Programme Producers (AMPTPP), Govardhan Tanmani, Producer – Baba Films and VP – AMPTPP, Salim Akhtar of Aftab Music, Satish Kulkarni of Shri Tulsi Productions, as also representatives from Western India Film Producers Association (WIFPA) and Film Producers’ Guild (FPG).

Sonia Chopra

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