Was the kiss in the latest Bond movie Spectre too long? Was a particular scene in another film so titillating as to offend public sentiments?
These are some of the questions that have exercised the Central Board of Film Certification, or censor board, in recent times. So it comes as a welcome relief that information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley has spoken of a need to review the board to make it controversy-free. His ministry has in the past spoken of the US model as a template.
There the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is the certification authority, though it is not mandatory for films to go through this body. In the event that a film does not do so, it will be labelled as such. The MPAA issues certification on which audience the film is suitable for, it does not make recommendations on changes or impose cuts.
Similarly, the British Board of Film Classification is a non-government, independent organisation which again issues certification on age suitability, it does not comment on the quality of the film.
Here under the CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani, the board has been criticised for stifling creativity. The attitude of the board has been that of a nanny who seems to know best what the viewers should or should not see. Since taking over, Mr Nihalani has often been projecting himself as a self-styled custodian of Indian values and despite criticisms he seems to have been given carte blanche.
Mr Jaitley is on the right track in seeking a review of the board. The first step should be to have a board which is independent and made up of experts in the field.
If public sentiment were to be the touchstone of certification, then almost all films are bound to contain some content which will offend one section of the public or the other. The board should not judge the quality of the film but merely convey to the public whether the film is suitable for viewing for a particular age group.
India’s film industry today is going through a transition and this trend should be encouraged if we are to make a mark on the world stage.
And for this, a scissor-wielding censor board is a real dampener. This suggestion by the minister if followed through could make the picture much clearer and brighter for the film industry.