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Shyam Benegal Committee report: Will Censor Board lose its power to cut scenes?

The Shyam Benegal Committee has submitted a report with the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, and proposed amendments such as taking away the CBFC’s power to demand cuts in a film.

bollywood Updated: Jul 20, 2017 08:08 IST
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Hindustan Times
Shyam Benegal Censor Board,Pahlaj Nihalani,Hansal Mehta
CBFC Chairman Pahlaj Nihalani disagrees with the proposed changes in the report submitted by the Shyam Benegal Committee.

In the wake of recent controversies where several filmmakers have locked horns with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a fresh debate has been triggered by filmmaker Shyam Benegal meeting with the officials at the Information & Broadcasting Ministry. The filmmaker met the ministry officials to check the status of the report submitted by a special committee led by him in 2016, which suggested that CBFC should limit its functioning to issuing certificates to movies and not impose censoring.

While Benegal is hopeful that government will push the much required revamping of the CBFC and introduce changes in the archaic Cinematograph Act 1952, we contacted him to for clarity on any deadline given by the ministry. He tells us, “We submitted the report in two parts—in April and October last years—and they are yet to take any action. I’ve been after them for the last 10 days but I can’t talk much because I have sworn to maintain the confidentiality of the subject until the ministry itself reacts.”

He adds, “I’d urge you to get in touch with the Joint Secretary or the secretary of the ministry or even the minister Ms. Smriti Irani and ask them what happened to the report and why haven’t they taken any action on the proposed changes.”

The committee has proposed amendments such as introducing a new category called ‘adult with caution’ and sub-dividing existing categories into UA 12+ and UA 15+ to make the content accessible to appropriate audience.

If we don’t have a rating system in between UA and A, we will suggest cuts otherwise we can’t certify.

Reacting to the points mentioned in the report, Pahlaj Nihalani, CBFC chairman says, “What the Shyam Benegal report says, I don’t agree with that because he’s not demanding the right things. If we don’t have a rating system in between UA and A, so definitely we will suggest them cuts otherwise we can’t certify [the film].”

With an underlined sarcasm, Nihalani adds, “A wrong interpretation by some unknowledgeable people that CBFC is just a certification body, as along with that there’s an act and rulebook also, which you can’t forget.”

While all this is still being debated upon, we asked film frat if it’s about time that censor board should be revamped and new changed be introduced.

If certification is specifically categorized, audience can self-censor what they’d like to consume

Stating that it’s “pathetically regressive” to have an appointed board deciding on creative cuts, filmmaker Homi Adajania opines, “It’s bizarre that some pseudo-intellectual diktat can be passed allowing a screen kiss to linger for six seconds but not eight! What happens in those two seconds? It’s all just so freaking backward.” He adds, “If certification is specifically categorized, audience can self-censor what they’d like to consume, knowing what the film’s rating stands for and through this they will not be offended by the content.”

Director Ruchi Narain, whose animated film Hanuman ‘Da Damdaar faced censorship issues, quips, “It’s the simple truth. Government should govern. Reporters should report. Film makers should make films. Certification board should certify. If you start censoring everything, you turn blank and have nothing to say.”

Ruling out any possibility that Bollywood can ever be free from censorship, filmmaker Hansal Mehta says it’s sad that there’s no will to actually bring about a change. “I heard about this draft for a bill being proposed, which will be studied by the cabinet. But when will it be tabled in the Parliament? When will it actually go through?” asks Mehta.

We’ll have to push our artistic boundaries in a way that we can work within the guidelines and parameters of CBFC

“Every time there a furor around a film, there’s some spoken gesture that comes through but there’s no action. I have this sinking feeling that we’ll have to live with censorship that has existed since CBFC came into existence and Cinematograph Act was formed in 1952. So, we’ll have to push our artistic boundaries in a way that we can work within the guidelines and parameters of CBFC,” he adda.

In support of Shyam Benegal committee report, film critic Omar Qureshi says, “Censorship rules and regulations are as archaic as it gets and these new recommendations are an upgradation on the lines of the American association that has PG13 and PG18 and ‘approved for all audiences’ as per guidelines set for movies depending upon language and adult and violence quotient. And in any case, the word ‘censor’ is wrong. The body was always meant to guide and certify. Never censor. It reduces the freedom of expression to naught. Words like censorship are used in non democratic countries. Not in our great grey democracy.”

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First Published: Jul 19, 2017 18:03 IST