A controversy was ignited, when our regulatory board, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), censored a kissing scene from the bond movie Spectre, for being excessively long. It is okay for two flowers to have feelings and stay on the screen for long, but, wait, Bond doesn’t get the same privilege.
CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani invited a lot of flak over his decision of censoring the scene, which curbs the artistic freedom. Considering all the scissoring of the scenes for being ‘adult’ or ‘immoral’, Shyam Benegal formed a committee that would look to reform the workings of the Censor Board.
Earlier this week, Shyam Benegal who heads the committee for reforms in censorship rules, submitted his report to the I&B minister Arun Jaitley.
As per the panel, CBFC should just be a film certification body whose reach should be restricted to categorising the suitability of film, and not compromising with its essence.
The motive of the panel is that, the artistic expression and creative freedom should not be curbed, and audiences should feel empowered to make informed viewing choices. The certification process should be responsive to rapid social change, as now thoughts move with the speed of the culture, and one should be flexible enough to adapt to such changes.
Keeping the above-mentioned into consideration, the panel has called for an increase in the number of film certification categories from U, U/A and A, to UA12, UA15, and AC (adult with caution).
The committee has also recommended that a Director’s Cut of every film is to be preserved in the National Film Archives of India, instead of the certified version, so as to not lose a filmmaker’s vision of cinema.
Another great recommendation concerns the regional advisory panels which really form the backbone of the viewing and certifying process. Whereas, the rights to re-certify the movies when broadcasted on television, lies with the Board.
Did the committee forget the recent butchering of highly acclaimed movie Masaan, which ruined the essence of the movie, just so that it could be ‘suitable’ for family viewership?
It won’t be tactless to say, that due to the stringent scissoring attitude of CBFC, in it’s own unimportant yet influencing way, they have given birth to definition of ‘entertainment’. The general mediocrity of our cinema, fosters an environment where acceptable and majoritarian concept is passed off as a worthwhile cinematic experience.
Scenes depicting sex, nudity and profanity would often be annexed, while those that portray casual misogyny, domestic violence and regressiveness has been conveniently overlooked.
In such a scenario, the reforms put forth by the Benegal committee are worth applauding, especially the intention on certifying films rather then insensitively censoring them.
However, one loophole still remains. Certification can be denied when a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The gist of which is, that any film which compromises with ‘integrity’, ‘decency’ or ‘morality’ of the nation, would remain unfit for certification.
With such terms being vague, they are prone to be misused and are open to various interpretations of the officials. In such cases, how does one decide the offense of the matter?