The censor board should wield the scissors sparingly and create more categories for film certification, a committee headed by noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal has recommended in a move to protect artistic freedom.
The committee, which is looking into a possible revamp of the board after a string of controversies, presented the first part of its report to Union information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) should be a certification body and restrict itself to categorising the suitability of a film for audience groups based on their age and maturity, the report said.
“We are recommending that CBFC should not be using scissors on any film. We are suggesting that in addition to different classifications that we have - we should have two categories of U/A, one plus 12 years of age and one plus 15 years of age and two categories of adult, one is normal adult and another adult with caution,” Benegal said.
At present, films get certificates under four categories. Category U means film are “suitable for unrestricted public exhibition”. While films in the U/A category are suitable for unrestricted exhibition with an “endorsement of caution”, the ‘A’ category films are for adults.
If the recommendations are implemented, India will have two sub-categories under U/A (UA12+ and UA15+) and an additional category named AC (adult with caution).
At the time of seeking certification, applicants will have to specify the category and target audience.
“Government’s intention was that the censor board should be responsible for certification only. Restrictions on artistic freedom should be as per the Constitution,” minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore told HT.
The censor board, headed by Pahlaj Nihalani, has courted several controversies of late for ordering cuts and decisions to bleep out expletives. The board was criticised for giving a UA certificate to Jungle Book, even as it said 3D effects in the film could scare children.
The Benegal committee, however, suggested that the censor board can refuse certification if a film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
This section says a film should not be certified if authorities feel it is against the interests of the country’s security, sovereignty and integrity, public order and decency or morality, and might affect friendly relations with foreign states or has content that amounts to defamation and contempt of court.
The committee said its guidelines will ensure that children and adults are “protected from potentially harmful or unsuitable content and audiences, particularly parents are empowered to make informed viewing decisions”.
Once the second part of the report that will discuss issues such as animal welfare in films and allowing onscreen smoking is submitted, the government will formalise a new set of guidelines for the board.
The committee has also made recommendations about the functioning of the CBFC, asking the chairperson to play the role of a guide who should not be involved in the day-to-day affairs of film certification.
Apart from Benegal, the other members of the panel set up in January are -- actor Kamal Hassan, filmmaker Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, Piyush Pandey, Goutam Ghose, Bhawana Somaaya and senior officials of the I&B ministry.
(With agency inputs)