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Censor & Sensibility

Society is mature enough to be its own censor. How can we compromise their Constitutional freedom

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) examines every movie from its title to its song lyrics and even the advertisements in the intervals. Lyrics and dialogue have the same censorship parameters as both are words describing situations.

To get the green signal from the CensorBoard, lyrics should not be deliberately directed against a particular identity or an institution, include vulgarity or offend religious sentiments. We usually have one officer and one panel memberto judge a song. If either disagrees withthe other, it is passed on to a bigger panel and a majority decision is taken. Once a decision is taken, if it is not infavour of the producer or director of the film, they get a chance to put acrosstheir point of view on why the censored lyrics, or that part, was significant tothe film. If the panel is convinced, fair enough; if not, the decision of the panel stands.

As for the DK Bose song from Delhi Belly, the English version of the film was cleared first. The songs came in later. When we saw the film with the song in the Hindi version, it was the character, DK Bose running in the film and the song was written on that. A few days after clearing it, we heard in the mediaand from other people that the song was perceived with a double meaning if heard in a loop. But when we saw the film with the song, we did not interpretit in a similar fashion. Then why go ahead and change it after clearing it just because people outside feel that way? If the song was Bose DK, we wouldn’t have cleared as it would become an abusive word.

We even had Monica darling (Caravan) years ago. Then, we had some pretty bold lyrics – Choli ke peecche (Khalnayak). There was an Amitabh Bachchan song – Hum to tamboo mein bamboo (Mard). So there is nothing wrong with Sheila ki jawani. I was one of the panellists to object to this song as I would not like my daughter singing,“I am too sexy for you” as the lyrics ofthe song go, but we cannot bring in our personal value systems while making decisions.

A majority of the panel had no issueswith it and the song was a hit on theairwaves too. I have heard a news report that, because of this song, a girl named Sheila was teased by a boy, so her brother murdered him. I am very sensitive about any remarks made against women. Considering our culture, this can be a very touchy subject.

In most cases, the music is released a month before the film’s release, by the time it has earned enough air play and has become popular. So who are we to judge if it should be censored as it isalready been liked so much by people and become a hit in society, for whom we act as the moral police?

Every film that comes to us today has item songs with such lyrics. We can’tbe cutting down every song! The people who write such songs are also a partof society and people who make these songs a hit are also a section of the society. We are part of the same society and cannot deny people what they like.

Article 19 in the Constitution of India gives people freedom of expression. We cannot curb it by bringing in our personal value systems. Lyrics are subject to interpretation. The Censor Board has a pool of 200 members. To view each film, four members are drawn from this pool. In case a bigger panel is needed, we draw seven or eight members. One needs to understand that each panel member comes from a different section of society, region, upbringing, education, exposure, value system and age,  makes them have certain opinions.We are not robots to have everything in the right place. We also come from the same society as the makers and audience do. The government has made us as a guiding force to regulate things but society itself can decide what is morally correct as we can.

Do you think the Censor Board is lenient towards lyrics of today’s films? Itake that as a compliment. We are letting people do what is sensible for them.

Pankaja Thakur, CEO, Central Board of Film Certification, India

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