India’s film certification board has accepted the recommendations of a government-appointed panel to introduce new movie categories that could potentially end the controversial practice of chopping off scenes or muting words deemed offensive, HT has learnt.
The move has wider implications as it means the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), popularly called the censor board, could now have a limited role to play in editing content of films before issuing certificates for public viewing.
CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani did not respond to calls and messages from HT.
The BJP-led government appointed the panel led by acclaimed filmmaker Shyam Benegal following allegations that the CBFC was stifling artistic freedom under Nihalani.
The panel submitted its report to the Centre recently on restructuring the Cinematography Act and rules, under which films are categorised depending on the nature of its contents including adult themes.
The panel has suggested adding more categories for films with explicit sexual content instead of CBFC’s use of the scissors, which often leads to conflict with filmmakers over allowing kissing scenes, sexual content and cuss words in films.
Sources said the CBFC’s nod to the recommendation of adding more categories will be sent to the information and broadcasting ministry, but these suggestions can be implemented only after amendments to the 1952 Cinematograph Act.
The CBFC board at its meeting in Mumbai on Monday, however questioned some of the new categories and how they will be defined, such as ‘adult with caution’.
There was also no clarity on how films will be recertified for viewing on television. While national broadcaster Doordarshan airs only those films that have a ‘U’ certificate, private channels can broadcast only ‘UA’ certified films.
“If there are going to be no cuts or deletions from films how will they be tailored for TV viewing? That is an issue that the government will have to take a call on,” said a source.
At present, films with explicit adult content are given an ‘A’ certificate, a ‘U/A’ certificate which mandates parental supervision for children below 12 and the ‘U’ certificate for universal viewing.
The Benegal committee has recommended dividing the U and UA Categories to – UA12+ and UA15+ and the A category to be sub-divided into A and AC (adult with caution) categories.
The proposed A/C category will not include pornography, but will be a certificate for films with explicit sexual content or nudity.
Pornographic films or those that hurt religious sentiments or harm national security will not be eligible for certification.
Nihalini had earlier written to the I&B ministry opposing recommendations on curtailing the CBFC’s censorship powers.
“There are several recommendations that the board has concerns with, those will be conveyed to the ministry too,” the source said, declining to give details.
The CBFC has also agreed to allow online certification of films, but has concerns about the suggestion on out-of-turn certification, where an applicant would have to pay five times the fee that would have to be paid if the certification were done in the normal course.
The CBFC was slammed after Nihalani snipped many kissing scenes in the James Bond Movie Spectre. Fellow-members of the board had charged him with running it as his “personal fiefdom”.
Nihalani also earned the ire of filmmakers and other board members after he prepared a list of cuss words that could not be used in films.
Follow @htshowbiz for more