It’s time the industry and the CBFC called a truce and focused on finding a solution suited to the times we live in – a time when access to pretty much anything on the Internet, make the rules that govern artistic expression look archaic
The relationship between filmmakers and the authorities in-charge of certifying films as being fit for public consumption, has always been fraught with tension that often blows into a full-blown controversy.
So if Udta Punjab made national news recently, for its run-ins with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), it was only following in the path traversed previously by films like Garam Hawa and Aandhi over four decades ago. In fact, it probably got away lighter than what the 1977 film Kissa Kursi Ka had to endure, which was not only banned by the powers-that-be but also had its master print and copies destroyed!
However, today’s India lives in a radically changed environment compared to earlier generations. When almost 500 crore Indians can access any kind of content through the Internet, as can 225 crore Indians on their smartphones, it seems not only restrictive but also discriminatory to subject films to an elaborate and mandatory revisionary exercise, post the scrutiny by the CBFC.
The grouse against the cuts and certificates given by the CBFC is not just a principled defence of ideals such as freedom of expression and artistic rights. It has a direct commercial bearing, with an ‘A’ certificate automatically excluding a very substantial chunk of the potential theatrical audience. It also drastically reduces (if not completely eliminates it) the potential satellite rights valuation.
Besides, filmmakers often have issues with other matters relating to film censorship like the processes and timelines involved, a perceived arbitrariness in taking decisions and lack of transparency in their functioning.
To be fair, the central government seems to have recognised that there is a problem and that it needs to be fixed. Early this year, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting appointed a very credible committee headed by senior filmmaker Shyam Benegal to provide recommendations to overhaul film censorship in India. The committee has already submitted its report and it remains to be seen what action will be taken, and when, to usher in a new censorship regime that delivers the stated mandate of the whole exercise: to ensure that ‘artistic creativity and freedom do not get stifled/curtailed’ and that ‘the film industry is given sufficient and adequate space for creative and aesthetic expression’.
In this section of our seventh anniversary issue, we have asked industries voices to talk their minds. How can we make the process smooth while not compromising on the filmmaker’s creativity and vision? How can it be a win-win situation for all of us? Read on: