By Express News Service nie
Published: 08th Mar 2015 06:00:00 AM
NEW DELHI: The Home Minister had stated in Parliament that the No Objection Certificate (NoC) was given to Udwin and Anjali Bhushan but the latter’s name is missing from the documentary shown on BBC, prompting Ministry officials to summon all records pertaining to the documentary shoot from Tihar Jail authorities. Now comes another twist in the tale. It is learnt that a UK based “Worldview” funded “India’s Daughter” and listed Anjali Bhushan as the original co-producer of the documentary. However, after it was released, her name is missing from not only the credit rolls but also from the web page of the Italian distributor Berta Film and Denmark-based DR Sale, which hold the rights to distribute India’s Daughter.
A WEB OF DECEPTION: Although, Anjali Bhushan could not be contacted despite several attempts, the officials probing the case pointed out that Udwin has used her name and expertise to make the documentary, which had received huge foreign funding including money from Tribeca Film Institute. Investigators are also surprised by mention of ‘Tathagat Films’ popping up as the co-producer in the credit roll of the documentary. They said it appears to be a fraudulent entity created at Udwin’s behest.
“Tathagat films is not mentioned in the official papers submitted by the original makers of the documentary which means a mirage was created to hide something on the UK joint venture. ‘Apricot Sky Entertainment’ owned by Anjali, which was originally mentioned in the papers is now missing from the official credit list. All these complications raise suspicion over the working of the British filmmaker,” the official added.
Apricot Sky Entertainment, mentioned as the original partner by ‘Worldview’ is registered with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs with Anjali Bhushan as one of the directors. However, further investigation into “Tathagat films” added further mystery to the plot. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has no records of Tathagat Films, but there are at least three production houses that operate under the same name in Mumbai and Delhi. Arvind Marchande, owner of the Mumbai based ‘Tathagat films’ refused any association with Leslee or Assassin films saying he never worked on the documentary. He also told The Sunday Standard that he has never met Udwin. The phone numbers of the two Delhi-based ‘Tathagat Films’ were found to be incorrect.
SLEIGHT OF HAND: A Home Ministry official said investigators are also looking in the affairs of an entertainment company, which holds musical events and is perhaps run by a person known to Udwin and others associated with the film. Dibang, a senior journalist is credited as the co-producer in the film. A questionnaire sent to him seeking his response on controversy and ongoing probe remains unanswered.
For a producer who claimed on TV she was once raped and she wanted the documentary to be a tribute to Indian women, officials say that strangely she was mostly absent during the week-long shoot inside Tihar.
“A crew of 4-5 people interviewed convicts inside their cells. Meanwhile, one of the cameramen quit after 2-3 days of working and a new person was drafted into the crew. Why a new cameraman came into the scene as shown in the records is yet to be ascertained,” said an official. He also said that the interviewed convict, Mukesh Singh was not comfortable talking to the TV crew though he had given a consent letter to the filmmakers including Anjali Bhushan. When they started, they noticed that nothing much would be forthcoming from Mukesh since he was only replying in monosyllables— ‘yes’ and ‘no’. They crew decided to resort to the ‘Sting Strategy’.
It is reliably learnt that a cameraperson was asked to roll the camera but pretended that it was switched off. The rapist was inveigled into an informal chat. Unaware that he was being shot, his ugly, unrepentant mindset came to the fore and Udwin could get the sensational quotes, which were used in the film. “He was not speaking, so it was decided to do a sting and use the entire set up to look like a proper interview. It was a long informal interview in which he had mentioned so many things. The crew also interviewed a few other convicts, but till that time Tihar authorities did not know the contents of Mukesh Singh’s bytes. They saw it sometime last year and raised objections,” said an official privy to the developments in the ongoing probe.
The official also pointed out that the clothes Mukesh wore during the interview indicated that rules were violated. Mukesh had not been convicted at the time of the interview and he was still an undertrial. Official said, if found true, this proves a serious violation of rules and the guilty will be brought to book. “If he had been convicted, he would have been wearing prison clothes,” points out a Tihar Jail official.
The Home Ministry had given its NoC to the documentary makers on July 24, 2013. But the consent letter signed by Mukesh Singh is dated October 7, 2013. The shoot duration is still under probe to ascertain whether the four rape accused, who were convicted by the court on September 10, 2013, were facing trial or had been sentenced.
“In both situations, Tihar authorities were responsible for violation of rules. The probe is also looking at the role of the facilitator who ensured smooth access,” the official added.
THE MYSTERY DEEPENS: There is also element of secrecy as filmmaker’s application is generic in nature. It just seeks interviews of convicts for study and research purposes, while the consent letter (written in English for a convict who doesn’t understand any language other than Hindi) mentions that the consent was for “ a documentary cantered on the 16th December Delhi Gang Rape Case”.
Leslee Udwin has left India fearing her arrest after Delhi Police registered an FIR. She has claimed that she spent two years working on the documentary. The ongoing inquiry contradicts her claim.
“We are examining her travel details to check whether she had obtained a Filmmaker’s Visa or came to India on a tourist visa. Our initial findings suggest that shooting in India was a limited affair and she did not spend two years in India as she had claimed to international TV channels. The entry, stay and exit of foreigners into and from India are governed by the Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920, and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1992. Documentary filmmakers are issued journalist visas valid for up to six months.
To apply for a documentary film visa, the filmmaker needs to give an undertaking to the Ministry of External Affairs along with the synopsis of the proposed documentary, with a complete list of locations and filming dates, equipment list and crew details. It is mandatory for all journalist visa holders to contact the External Publicity Division of MEA on arrival. The undertaking to MEA clearly states that the filmmaker will have to show the film to a representative of the government, If so required, at least two weeks before final telecast and will work constructively with the government representatives to remove deviations, If any, from the approved scripts of the film. Investigators have asked the MEA and the Bureau of Immigration under the Home Ministry to share the details filed by Udwin while applying for her visa.
TRICKING THE SYSTEM: “In most of the cases, foreign filmmakers circumvent the rules by getting a co-producer on the board. They generally come on tourist visas and subsequently hire a production house to do the job. We have asked our London Mission to probe whether Leslee had submitted a synopsis of the documentary while applying for the visa,” a source said adding that so far they have not received any response.
Leslee in her earlier television interviews had denied violating any rules. She had even told some channels that she possessed all the required clearances and perhaps Home Minister Rajnath Singh was misinformed.
After the ban of film, Leslee Udwin appeared on several International TV channels saying the film was her “gift to India’ and she only tried to expose the mindset of rapists and wanted to highlight the country’s zeal to fight crimes against women. But, an official involved in the proble who is aware of the funding pattern of “India’s Daughter” and knows the filmmaker said Udwin had successfully sold the film to distributors branding “Delhi as rape capital of the world” and “India as society where brutality against women is widespread” as has appeared on their websites.
He also said that besides grants received before filming the project, Udwin also successfully marketed the film with the help of distributors. Besides BBC, the film is also slated for release on Passionate Eye, a Canadian documentary television series, which airs on CBC News Network of Canada. “Leslee Udwin was obliged to come to India for the documentary’s publicity campaign because the agreement with Tribeca makes it mandatory for the filmmaker to do a promotional campaign for any project funded by them. Another one is due in New York,” an Home Ministry official said requesting complete anonymity.
Who is Leslee Udwin?
Little known in India before the India’s Daughter controversy, 58-year-old Leslee Udwin produced two feature films East is East and its sequel West is West. According to her LinkedIn profile, Leslee was awarded the London Critics Producer of the Year Award and also won “BAFTA” (British Academy Award) for best British film. She specialises in producing feature films and lecturing on film and film production. According to UK Companies Directory, Leslee floated Assassin Films Limited in 1992.
The Home Ministry had alleged that Leslee did not clearly indicate the reason behind the Tihar interview and kept the authorities in the dark. However, Leslee refuted the charges claiming she followed the rules.
Currently, Leslee holds three appointments at three active companies—West is West Distribution Ltd, Assassin Films (the One & Only ) Limited and Assassin Films. Earlier she held directorship in five companies that are no longer active.
HOW FOREIGN FILMMAKERS CIRCUMVENT LAW
Months before Home Ministry ordered a probe against Leslee Udwin for violating rules, a look-out circular was issued against two French filmmakers for shooting Jarwa tribe for a documentary film in October 2014 without permission. Andman Police had filed FIR against French director Alexandre Dereims and producer Claire Beilvert after they came know through a feature on Facebook, promoting a documentary “Organic Jarawa”. The MEA was asked to rope in Interpol to nab French filmmakers who had quietly returned after the shooting.
A tale of tricks of the trade
■ The producers didn’t take requisite approval before telecast
■ Filmmakers were asked not to release/screen the documentary till it is approved by the authorities but premier date was fixed without getting the necessary permission.
■ Did Leslee apply for documentary filmmaker visa under Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920, and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1992?
■ She used only Mukesh Singh’s byte and not of other convicts.
■ Investigators claim the film was made for commercial benefit rather for social study as originally claimed by the filmmaker while seeking permission for interview.
■ Investigators probing the role of ‘Tathagat films’, the Indian partner of Leslee Udwin’s Assassin Films.
India’s Daughter: Frame by Frame
- July 24, 2013: Home ministry grants permission to Leslee Udwin and Anjali Bhushan to shoot a documentary inside Tihar Jail
- Oct 7, 2013: Consent letter of December 12 gang-rape convict taken
- Jan 9, 2014: Udwin receives funding from Worldview. The grant is announced jointly for Udwin’s Assassin Films Ltd (UK) and Bhushan’s Apricot Sky Entertainment (India).
- April 7, 2014: Tihar Jail authorities detect violation in permission conditions for shoot and a legal notice is served. The notice to Leslee asks her to return the unedited footage within 15 days and also not to show the film as it violates the permission conditions.
- May-June 2014: Documentary is shown to jail authorities where it is noticed that the film depicts the comments of the convict which are highly derogatory. The filmmaker is requested to provide full copy of the unedited film for further review by the authorities and that they are asked not to release/screen the documentary till it is approved by the authorities.
- June 10, 2014: Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund is awarded to Udwin for India’s Daughter.
- Feb 27 , 2015: BBC Magazine publishes curtain-raiser on India’s Daughter highlighting rape convict Mukesh Singh’s interview and schedule of world premiere on March 8
- March 3, 2015: Uproar in Parliament, Delhi Police registers FIR under Section 509 (outraging the modesty of women) and Section 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of trust) of the IPC.
- March 4, 2015 : Protest by lawmakers in Parliament forces government to ban the film. Google and YouTube are asked to remove the links.
- March 4, 2015: BBC and some other channels in Europe advance telecast of the documentary by four dayhttp://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/Britain%E2%80%99s-Daughter-Violates-India%E2%80%99s-Daughter%E2%80%99s-Trust-by-Misleading-Government-with-Script/2015/03/08/article2702824.ece