In recent times, the CBFC has stirred up many controversies. It’s time we go to the root of the problem and recognise it for what it is.
It seems the list of unusable words in films is just getting longer and longer. Only recently, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) didn’t approve of ‘intercourse’ in Jab Harry met Sejal. But now it seems the CBFC has problem with words like ‘Gujarat’, ‘cow’ and phrases like ‘Hindutva view of India’ and ‘Hindu India’. Sunam Ghosh, the filmmaker of a documentary The Argumentative Indian on Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen was asked to mute these words from the film. However, Suman, has refused to budge. In another instance, Pahlaj Nihalani-led Censor Board passed Madhur Bhandarkar’s upcoming film Indu Sarkar with 14 cuts. An unhappy Madhur later tweeted on July 10 saying: Just got out of #InduSarkar film censor screening. Am appalled at the 14 cuts suggested by the committee. Will go to the revising committee. (sic).
Although there has been a lot of hue and cry over the Censor Board’s highhandedness and playing the role of a moral police, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, whose Buddha in a Traffic Jam was ridiculed by many for being a propagandist film, thinks the problem is much more complex. “You can’t do anything about it. They (Censor Board) are only following the guidelines, which are ancient,” he says, adding, “Everybody says Pahlaj is pro-BJP. But if that’s the case, then why would he bother to censor lines like ‘kab tak maa bete ki sarkaar chalegi’ from Madhur’s film?”
Vivek says, there’s no point in blaming the chairman and challenges that any ‘honest’ man would end up in similar dire straits. “It’s easy to blame the chairman but it’s the guidelines, the parent-teacher associations, women organisations, and NGOs who keep sending applications to CBFC. Put the most honest man in that chair even he can’t do anything and you will start abusing him too. Make Anurag Kashyap sit in that position even for his own film like Udta Punjab, he will have to recommend cuts. This system is redundant and it has to be amended,” he says.
While Vivek points at the rotten system, filmmaker Avinash Das says that the CBFC is doing everything apart from the job that they have been assigned to — to give certificate and not censor anything. “Earlier I used to get very angry when I used to read such stories but now I only laugh at this CBFC system. No matter how much ever you protest or argue with them they will never understand the point. It will be only a waste of time,” he says.
The only solution, he says, is to dissolve the Board. “We have to struggle for all good things that we want to do. It’s a very sad state right now. We should just dissolve this so called CBFC,” he rants.
Only recently, Lipstick Under My Burkha was involved in a tangle with the CBFC after the censors declined to certify the film for its sexual scenes and abusive words, among other things. After putting up a long fight, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) has decided that the film can be released with an adult certificate. Actor and recently turned filmmaker Konkona Sen Sharma, who is also a part of the film, is of the opinion that it should be left to the citizens to choose what they want to see. Speaking on the redundancy of the Censor Board, she says, “I think we can say which films are for adults and which are not and people can then decide if they want to watch it. You can’t protect your own citizens from communal riots, if you are going to protect them from ideas that are so stupid and regressive.”
Almost with a touch of gloom in her tone, actor Ratna Pathak Shah says, “Our society is in a great flux at the moment. We like to pretend we are modern, but modernity is not about talking in English and going to malls. Real modernity is quite different. It has to do with a change of mindset and it has to do with adoption of more scientific or rational view towards the world and individual.”
“I am devastated to see the regressiveness today. But we will keep fighting it in whichever way we can — individually and together when possible,” concludes a rueful yet resolute Ratna.