Head of Marketing, Reliance Entertainment
Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression but there are certain restrictions when it comes to morality, decency, public behaviour etc. This is somewhat reflective of our film certification board and its policies. In fact, the Central Board of Film Certification (often referred to as the Censor Board), as the name suggests, is tasked with certifying films. It usually does a great job until there is heavy ‘censoring’, leading to a creative compromise, thus dampening the prospects of a film at the box office. And as the debate rages on who decides what is right? With no clear winners in sight, the question is: is it really all that hard to arrive at a solution?
Two obvious thoughts come to mind as immediate and long-term solutions. Can we not self-regulate on the lines of satellite programming? All TV content (except films, again) do not have to go through the censorship or certification processes. The body decides for itself what is good to show to the consumer.
The other is to abolish ‘censorship’ altogether but at the same time arm the certification body with more age-specific categories. If implemented, that would take care of India. However, whether we like it or not, the issue is not restricted to India alone. Our films go through a similar and sometimes even more stringent censor process in the overseas markets and we don’t seem to mind that as much. But before we get there, we must lock-in a solid, long-term solution, which ensures that our content reaches the right audience without a creative compromise domestically, to begin with. And if we believe either of the two solutions is good to go, now is the time to pursue it.
COO, Salman Khan Films
The problem is our censor board and the laws that govern it are archaic. We need to legislate and update our laws. It’s quite a paradox – while we accept that no one can censor the Internet and live with all the adult and violent content that’s accessible at a click of a button, whether on a computer or on a mobile phone, we believe we need a ‘censor board’ to police filmmakers and audiences on what they can watch in cinemas and on television.
Our board’s rating of U /UA and A is outdated; it doesn’t recognise that we need a more fluid rating system that lets adults make choices regarding what they want to watch and what they’re OK to let their children watch. The rating process itself is unclear; some films fly under the radar while others are made an example of.
So unlike the certification boards in the UK or the US, where classification is based on clear guidelines, our certification guidelines are unclear and at the mercy of the board. Udta Punjab is a recent example, where the board almost jeopardised the film’s release for no apparent reason and it was only when the courts intervened that the film released.
The court clearly limited the role of the board to certification, not censorship but we are still to see that change. The industry is awaiting Shyam Benegal’s report on this – it’s great that the I&B Ministry has picked a filmmaker with his experience and vision to rework how the censor board functions and the hope is we’ll have a fair and robust rating system that is more aligned with the world we live in, and not one which treats films like a juvenile delinquent that needs to be made an example of every now