The head of the Dera Sacha Sauda religious sect on Monday lost the second round of his battle to procure a screening certificate for his upcoming movie MSG: The Messenger of God., which was aiming for a January 16 release. Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is the writer, co-director, music composer and lead actor of MSG – his voice also appears on the soundtrack. The Central Board of Film Certification denied MSG a certificate arguing last week, among other things, that it is a lengthy advertisement (reportedly 195 minutes long) for the godman rather than a movie. Gurmeet Singh appealed the decision before a revising committee, which watched the film again on Monday but refused to certify it.
No movie can play in cinemas or on television without a censor certificate. “The revising committee that watched the movie today said it wasn’t competent to approve the film’s release and referred MSG to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal in Delhi," a spokesperson for the movie’s producer said on condition of anonymity. "We will know the release date only after the appellate tribunal has watched it.”
The spokesperson said his side would react after receiving a written order from the CBFC in which the reasons for rejecting the movie were explained. “While we respect the due process and shall make all efforts to release our film through the proper channel, we reiterate that there is nothing objectionable or hurtful to the sentiments of anyone in the film,” the spokesperson said. “We are assured that we have the same right to life, liberty and expression as any others under our glorious Constitution. ”
The FCAT is the final body of appeal within the CBFC. If the FCAT too decides to deny MSG a certificate, then he can approach the Supreme Court.
Godman, miracle man, superman
One of the seven members of the revising committee who watched MSG on Monday said that it promotes obscurantism and blind faith, depicts Gurmeet Singh as a miracle worker second only to god in his ability to vanquish Punjab’s drug addiction problem, restore sight to the blind, cure terminally ill patients and single-handedly destroy his opponents. “If this were a film starring Hrithik Roshan as a superhero, we would have passed it,” said the revising committee member on the condition of anonymity. “But in this film, Gurmeet Singh is playing himself, not a fictional character. He reinforces his cult’s beliefs through the film, and although he claims to be only a messenger of god, his followers call him ‘Bhagwan’ in the movie.”
Even Superman cannot make the blind see again, the revising committee member pointed out. “We were not sure that we were competent enough to take a decision on a movie that has the potential to create conflict,” the member said.
In 1992, Gurmeet Singh took charge of the Dera Sacha Sauda, whose strongholds include Punjab and Haryana. Ever since Gurmeet Singh’s ascent, the sect has clashed, often violently, with the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, the official body that governs Sikhism. In 1997, Gurmeet Singh issued advertisements in which he was dressed to bear a close resemblance to Sikh leader Guru Gobind Singh, leading to riots in Punjab.
Gurmeet Singh’s show business-influenced preaching style has made him a YouTube sensation. According to his Wikipedia page, he has released six music albums in the last two years, including the perkily named Highway Love Charger. Gurmeet Singh also holds rock concerts, has a Twitter account, and dressed as flamboyantly as the average glam rocker.
Gurmeet Singh’s colourful antics have kept pace with accusations, many of which have reached the courts, of rape, murder and castration of male followers. Clearly, he is already a character even before he embarked on MSG: The Messenger of God.
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