Director, Sales, Sony Pictures Entertainment, India
Since the dawn of mass media, many countries have attempted to regulate, control, or even block certain messages or content from being exhibited to their citizens at large. Today, most democratic countries are primarily interested in “classifying” (as opposed to “censoring”) media products –especially movies – into age-appropriate categories.
The result has been the formation of various movie-rating boards and offices which typically advise, and often enforce their decisions through legislation, as to what ages may see a particular title. It is a misconception in India that film certification is an anachronism of the democratic ethos of the country and it is India-specific. Nothing can be farther from truth. Film certification or classification is prevalent in almost all countries of the world in different forms and different level of participation of the government or the civil society.
A motion picture rating system is designated to classify films with regard to suitability for audiences in terms of issues such as sex, violence, substance abuse, profanity, impudence or other types of mature content. A particular issued rating is called a certification. This is designed to help parents decide whether a movie is suitable for their children.
Yet, the effectiveness of these systems is widely disputed. Also, in some jurisdictions, a rating may impose on movie theatres the legal obligation of refusing the entrance of children or minors to the movie. Furthermore, where movie theatres do not have this legal obligation, they may enforce restrictions on their own.
Ratings are often given in lieu of censorship. In countries such as Australia, an official government body decides on ratings; in other countries, such as the United States, it is done by industry committees with no official government status. In most countries, however, films that are considered morally offensive have been censored, restricted or banned. Even if the film rating system has no legal consequences, and a film has not explicitly been restricted or banned, there are usually laws forbidding certain films, or forbidding minors to view them.
The influence of specific factors in deciding a rating varies from country to country. For example, in countries such as the US, films with strong sexual content are often restricted to adult viewers, whereas in countries such as France and Germany, sexual content is viewed much more leniently. On the other hand, films with violent content are often subject in countries such as Germany and Finland to high ratings and even censorship, whereas countries such as the US offer more lenient ratings to violent movies.
A film may be produced with a particular rating in mind. It may be re-edited if the desired rating is not obtained, especially to avoid a higher rating than intended. A film may also be re-edited to produce an alternate version for other countries.
The certification process in India is in accordance with The Cinematograph Act, 1952, The Cinematograph (certification) Rules, 1983, and the guidelines issued by the Central government u/s 5(B)
At present, films are certified under four categories:
a) U : for unrestricted public exhibition
b) UA : for Unrestricted Public Exhibition – but with a word of caution that Parental discretion required for children below 12 years
c) A : Restricted to adults
d) S : Restricted to any special class of persons
Currently, the entire local censorship process is under discussion to further streamline the already existing smooth mechanism. There is a belief that our censorship system should gradually migrate to more of a ratings system somewhat akin to the process in the US and other countries.