Those who resent the scissor-happy Pahlaj Nihalani’s sweeping powers and his tenure as the censor board chief, there is light at the end of the tunnel: The Centre is planning to introduce a new Cinematograph Act to redraw the role of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) or Censor Board, which will take away some of the powers of the board.
This change of heart did not happen overnight: Former I&B minister Arun Jaitley had hinted at the need for a change in the present certification system after Mr Nihalani suggested 13 cuts in a controversial film on Punjab’s drug problem -- Udta Punjab, a decision which was challenged in the Bombay high court.
This was later reduced to one cut by the court based on its reading of the script. The CBFC, constituted under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, reviews and certifies films for public exhibition. Its powers to certify films for public consumption were, however, introduced by way of an amendment in 1959.
“The correct word is certification and not censorship. Certification norms will have to be liberal,” Mr Jaitley had said.
The government decision --- a bold and matured one ---- comes three months after a committee headed by the veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal submitted its report on the functioning of the CBFC on April 26.
The committee, in its recommendations, had suggested a revision in the processes for certifying films and the censorship involved therein. Under the current law, after a film is examined, it is rated under one of four categories—namely, U (unrestricted public exhibition), A (restricted to adults), U/A (unrestricted public exhibition with parental discretion required for children below 12 years) or S (restricted to a special class of persons). The new law is likely to broaden the categories under which films are certified.
In the US, a film has the choice of not being certified. In the UK, an autonomous body called the British Board of Film Certification does the certification. It is heartening that the committee has sought to make the certification process realistic by taking it away from censorship, which sounds primitive in any case.
In today’s world, when films and documentaries are available on social media, it makes no sense that some people decide what people should or should not watch. Creativity demands freedom for the artist, who in this case is the director of a movie.
A film like Pulp Fiction loses its plot altogether if the scenes of violence are deleted. The Last Temptation of Christ, which met with considerable opposition from the faithful, was finally allowed to be screened because it was based on facts.
The government’s new move shows an acknowledgment that Indians are mature enough to know what they want to watch and don’t need the nanny State to tell them what is good and what is not.