In February, information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari tweeted: “Committee on Cinematographic framework (will) give latitude to review every aspect of certification process holistically & ensure integrity.”
The Justice Mukul Mudgal Committee has used that latitude to come up with a progressive model Cinematograph Bill to replace the Cinematograph Act 1952.
The I&B ministry set up the Mudgal panel after the Tamil Nadu government banned Vishwaroopam. This was not a one-off case. While Prakash Jha’s 2011 film Aarakshan was banned in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, Ashutosh Gowariker’s Jodhaa Akbar was banned in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
Other films include Parzania, Firaaq that won two national awards, Madras Cafe, Bandit Queen... the list is endless. Such bans are imposed so as not to ‘hurt’ the sentiments of a particular section of society.
But such bans have not only hampered artistic freedom but has also emboldened fringe groups to have their 15 minutes of fame by raising frivolous excuses to stall the screening of a film. These films run into troubled waters even after getting the go ahead from the censor board, thus rendering such vetting processes meaningless.
The recommendations put forward by the Mudgal panel are noteworthy. Its suggestion that the selection to the advisory panels of the Central Board of Film Certification be more professional is spot on.
The present practice of political appointments, often with people who have little knowledge of the intricacies of cinema, is detrimental to the process. Another suggestion is to increase the mandate of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal to hear cases regarding an objection to any particular film, rather than a plaintiff approaching the court as it happens at present.
The suggestion to have more categories for the classification of films and to bring age-specific divisions is a step in the right direction. The committee has also suggested that in cases where a state uses law and order as a reason to ban a film, ascendency must be given to the powers of the Cinematograph Act.
Law and order being a state subject, this suggestion is likely to run into rough weather.
The Mudgal committee has done its job well but it is still a long way before these suggestions are implemented. There are many stumbling blocks that might force this report to end up in the dusty pile of unimplemented reports submitted by various other committees in the past.
Now, it is up to the government to see that the Mudgal report is implemented in both letter and spirit.