Indian censor official quits over spiritual leader's Bollywood dreams

Fri Jan 16, 2015 8:21am EST
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By Tanya Ashreena

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian film that features a self-styled spiritual leader in jewel-studded costume riding motorbikes and sending the bad guys flying has prompted the chief of the country's censor panel to quit, citing government interference.

Other members of the panel were expected to quit on Friday, in support of Leela Samson's resignation after an appeals tribunal reversed censors' decision to keep the film, "MSG: The Messenger of God", out of theaters as being too promotional.

"There is interference, there is coercion," Samson told television broadcaster CNN-IBN, adding that the appeals tribunal, whose decisions usually take a month, had cleared "MSG" within 24 hours.

However, the government, which runs the censorship and appeals process, did not interfere, said Rajyavardhan Rathore, India's junior minister for information and broadcasting.

"If they had to give it a certificate and overrule us, why have a board in place?" Samson told Reuters.

Another panel member, Ira Bhaskar, said she would resign later on Friday in support of Samson, with others to follow.

"This is not an environment in which we can function as a board," she told CNN-IBN.

The imbroglio has delayed the release of "MSG", which stars Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the 47-year-old leader of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, beyond its originally set date of Friday.   Continued...