Filmmakers, not Censor Board, should decide on cutting any scenes: Shabana Azmi | bollywood | Hindustan Times
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Filmmakers, not Censor Board, should decide on cutting any scenes: Shabana Azmi

Veteran actor Shabana Azmi says that it’s about time the Cinematograph Act of 1952 was overhauled, and that it’s ‘so wrong’ to refer to the Central Board of Film Certification as Censor Board.

bollywood Updated: Jul 24, 2017 12:51 IST
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Actor Shabana Azmi was in Delhi for the premiere of her film, The Black Prince.
Actor Shabana Azmi was in Delhi for the premiere of her film, The Black Prince.

Amid all the controversy over how much say the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), informally called Censor Board, should have in the final version of a film, veteran actor Shabana Azmi says that the whole system needs a revamp. She believes that filmmakers, not the CBFC, should decide whether any scenes get the chop or not.

Talking to Hindustan Times during the Delhi premiere of her latest film, The Black Prince, Shabana was all for overhauling the current system, in which the CBFC has the power to demand cuts in a film before certifying it. “It’s so wrong to call the CBFC the Censor Board in the first place. It is here to certify films; censoring any scene is not its prerogative,” says the actor. Her reply comes in the context of being asked if she would ever take charge of the Censor Board, as her industry colleagues Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore and Anupam Kher have done.

The 66-year-old Shabana, who has always been vocal on the issue of censorship, asserts, “The fact is that the Cinematograph Act of 1952 needs serious revision, and we have to leave it to the filmmakers to decide whether they are open to any cuts in the film or not.”

“There was the Justice Mukul Mudgal panel, in which Javed [Akhtar] saab was also a member, and they also suggested many changes. So, we are only waiting for those changes to be implemented.”

Referring to the Shyam Benegal Committee, which, in its 2016 report, recommended fairly drastic changes in how the CBFC works, Shabana adds, “[The committee] has been saying exactly the same thing: that censorship or [the] certifying system needs to change. Even before this committee, there was the Justice Mukul Mudgal panel, in which Javed [Akhtar] saab was also a member, and they also suggested many changes. So, we are only waiting for those changes to be implemented.”

Drawing comparisons with the West, Shabana says that the CBFC needs to adopt the American system for film certification and move away from the current British ideology that is being followed.

“However much you say that the CBFC is an autonomous body, the fact is that those people are taken on the board [who] have some kind of affinity with the ruling party.”

“The system that we follow here for film certification is a British system, wherein you take about 30-odd people from within society and you literally make them sit on judgment to change the morality of the country every five years, according to the political dispensation of that time. Because, however much you say that it’s an autonomous body, the fact is that those people are taken on the board [who] have some kind of affinity with the ruling party, whether it’s the Congress or the BJP. Now, this is not good for any country’s art,” she says.

Shedding light on how the Motion Picture Association of America works, Shabana explains, “I’ve been saying for a long time now that we should follow the American system, where you have a board of people from within the film industry and they decide... the filmmaker decides that ‘I don’t want a single cut in my film, but I recognise that it’s not suitable for children, or not suitable for people of [a] certain age, so I am willing to take an XXX certificate.’ Or if a filmmaker says that ‘No, I want my film for universal release, so I am open to the suggested cuts.’ So [filmmakers] need to have the power to decide, and not any board.”

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