Censor the Censor Board

The Indian Film Industry is one that thrives on remakes, inspirations and flashes of brilliance whose divine origins can be traced back to a recently released commercial Hollywood Film. So by this very nature of every commercial hit (and leaving aside the films based on “original ideas” – they are generally huge flops!) I refuse to term this piracy a creative illness that plagues the industry. & nbsp;

However, censorship is an entirely different issue altogether. Like most Indian laws, it either redundant considering the present state of affairs or has more potential to be misused. Films these days have to bear a relentless onslaught from all directions. Be it the censor board, some over zealous groups who scrutinize every film and find a reason to be deeply hurt even by a nanosecond of alleged insult, or even the H’nbl Union Minister Of Health Dr. Ramadoss, the Indian Film Industry has never had it so bad. No film with substance can withstand scrutiny of these three.

The Central Board of Film Certification is the film censor board of India. It runs on the principle that a feature film can have as negative an effect on the public as it can have a positive effect. Therefore it strives to maintain balance, to make sure that the public is shielded from everything negative, everything to with sex, nudity (ironically, we are born naked!), religion, health hazards, etc and etc. This is a very idealistic mindset. But idealism seldom stands against realism, almost always ending up being a hindrance to its very intention. Rather than shielding the public from objectionable content, what the Board actually does is insult the intelligence of the audience and the filmmakers alike. Hypocrisy is the order of the day as films/documentaries which deviate from just providing ‘paisa vasool’ entertainment and instead focus on issues that the public deserves to be made aware of are banned altogether. Classic examples being Gulabi Aaina, a film that focuses on transsexuals, and the documentary Final Solution which makes an effort to enlighten the public on the dark realities of the infamous Gujarat Godhra riots. This is not in the interest of the public. This is a clear indication that the powers that be are woefully behind times. Far from understanding the maturity of the Indian public, they even deny us the opportunity to discern for ourselves, the grey from the black.

Intolerance is another factor that usually creates a lot of hindrance in the already difficult task of taking a film to the public. A disturbing trend which is being witnessed is the rise of various religious/social groups as law unto themselves. Getting the approval of the censor board is just not enough these days, no sir! If the poor producer manages to get the film past them, he must arrange special screenings for millions of other groups to entertain their concerns that the film, despite being a lighthearted comedy, might be detrimental to all that they stand for! Now that is humungous pile of unadulterated nonsense. Sometimes, it is pretty hilarious too. For example, when Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar Raj was going to be released, both the Thackerays – Raj and Balaji demanded a special screening. This is because the film allegedly derives some of its characters from the Thackeray family. I am sure their concerns of being portrayed in a negative fashion were completely unfounded. What they really wanted to do was to assert their respective supremacy over the other.

But mostly, such objections become violent and break all our pretences of a secular society which lives in harmony. The latest fashion is to go on a rampage and cause damage to multiplexes. As far as the agitators are concerned, their word is nothing short of God’s spoken truth and the blaspheming multiplex owner must be taught a lesson! In 2005, when Jo Bole So Nihaal, starring Sunny Deol, was released the Sikh Community was livid over the usage of their religious text in the movie. True, religious content must be used very sensitively considering we live in a country where.religion becomes a convenient excuse for rioting. The film, let me assure you, did nothing to insult the community at all. The scale of protest and violence that marked the alleged insult is lost once you actually bother to watch the movie.

A producer, till very recently, had to battle his way through ignorance (the film board) and intolerance(the various groups I just wrote about). But now he has to take into account incompetence and stupidity as well. Enter the H’ble Union Minister of Health- Dr. Ramadoss. What a man he is. He has good intentions, but then again, who does not? He is very enthusiastic about lecturing film stars on adopting ethics that would do a generation of youngsters a lot of good. Yet by his very own actions, his priorities can stand to be questioned. AIIMS, resting gloriously at the pinnacle of Indian medical fraternity, is at the bottom half of the pile when it comes to hygiene. And Mr Ramadoss is embroiled in a dirty battle to wrest control of it. I would rather he gave his attention to the not-so-great state of the medical industry than trying to fulfill his own whims. There is not an iota of doubt in our minds that smoking and drinking is harmful for our health. But we also have schools and parents to tell us that. There is no justification in curtailing the industry from showing such acts at the cost of suppressing their creativity and taking out all the panache from the context in which they are shown. Personally, if I had just about everyone telling me what a bad thing it is to smoke and drink, I would want to try it out just to see what the ruckus was all about.

The visual medium is a wonderful instrument in the right hands. It enables us to broaden our own horizons and develop an intellect that is mature and full of substance. Intolerance is bred by ignorance. By dictating the content that we have access to, we are denied an opportunity to learn and to form our own views – something that we can stand by. We do not need spoon-feeding. The Indian Film Industry, though frivolous and eager to rake in easy moolah, has the sort of talent and diversity of opinions and beliefs that can only be beneficial to us. It can provide us amazing entertainment. It can make us laugh and cry. What it can also do is to make us sit up and take notice, give us a chance to form our own opinions. Curtailing the content of a film because of intolerance and lack of understanding to its purpose is unacceptable. And it is very harmful. We have enough authorities in our lives to maintain checks and balances. We do not need any more.

Rishabh Agnihotri