Filmmaker Hansal Mehta points out how censorship is increasingly becoming a test of patience for filmmakers.
A draft bill aimed at amending the Cinematography Act proposes curtailing CBFC’s power to demand cuts and modifications in films. We ask filmmakers if this is the right way forward.
Though filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar is fighting against the cuts demanded by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for his upcoming film Indu Sarkar, the very idea of CBFC asking for modifications and cuts in films in the future is now officially under the scanner and in question.
In a committee headed by filmmaker Shyam Benegal, suggestions of CBFC being stripped of its powers to demand cuts and beeps in a movie have been made, and a draft bill to amend the Cinematography Act has been proposed.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta points out how censorship is increasingly becoming a test of patience for filmmakers. “There is some kind of tokenism every time there is a furore. Currently, the rage against Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar might have led to the committee saying that they are proposing a draft bill. When will this draft bill be discussed and finally passed, no one knows. The patience of filmmakers is running thin, especially when you can see that there is no intention of implementing it. This is just to make us feel that something is happening,” says the CityLights director.
Hansal further mentions how instead of a proposal, the bill should have been passed by now. “The bill could have been tabled for this session of parliament. But now we don’t know in which session this would be taken up. I have spoken to the CBFC and even they want a change in the guidelines so that they are not burdened every time there is a film with some kind of objectionable content. Every time a living person has been named in a film, there have been protests against the CBFC as well. We have to find a system of indemnifying CBFC,” says Hansal.
Documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak questions what the draft bill is going to add to CBFC’s role, since its role has always been to provide certification to films.
“Officially, the ‘censor board’ in India is already called the Central Board of Film Certification, so we have to ask what new element is this draft bill going to add? Presumably, they will not be upfront about cuts any more… there will be no more ‘cut this out’ or a ‘beep that out’. They will instead inform the filmmakers that unless they make certain changes to their work, it will be placed in a more restrictive category,” says the Red Ant Dream director, and adds, “While the Bill might work for fiction films, how is that going to work for documentary films? Will they say that if you don’t drop references to Gaurakshaks, Hindutva, or cow, then we’ll give you an Adult-With-Caution certificate? A new bill by itself cannot change the censorial regime. Unless the CBFC is taken away from the grasp of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and political appointees stop taking decisions on behalf of the filmmaking community, even certification will not help. The problem is not with the size and colour of the stick, but with who wields it.”
Censorship continues to be a strongly criticised concern in the film industry. While a proposal of taking the power of censorship away from CBFC doesn’t trigger a strong reaction from the film fraternity, filmmakers have always agreed with the idea of no censorship and only certification.
“The censor board should give certification to films and decide which film should be seen by which age group. They should not curb the freedom of the filmmaker. This has been talked about before as well and nothing has been done about it. We hope some decision will be taken soon,” says actor and filmmaker Satish Kaushik.