Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

CBFC irrelevance

When Pahlaj Nihalani became Chairperson of CBFC there was joy among film producers. They thought it will be good for them as he was one of them. Soon that joy turned into grief. Under him censorship was worse. He justified his actions saying he was acting as per rules and put an end to corruption. However, refusing certificate to Lip stick under my burkha was not as per rules because there is no rule that a lady-oriented film should not be given certificate. Some CBFC members openly spoke against him. Pahlaj Nihalani did not complete three years. Prasoon Joshi replaced him. For a time there was no problem.
Then came Tamil film Mersal. BJP members were unhappy about it. They wanted some dialogues muted. Other politicians spoke in favour of Mersal. When Telugu version of Mersal was submitted to CBFC and CBFC certified it some dialogues were muted. It was strange that what was allowed in one language was not allowed in another language.
Some people do not want any censorship. They want films to be graded. Some countries do not have censorship. Films are rated according to age group.
CBFC is the authority to certify films. Once CBFC certifies a film others should not have any say in it. Many times various individuals or groups demand ban on films or deletion of scenes from films. They threaten violence. State governments do not uphold law and order. Producers are made to yield to demands.
Worse is the case when state governments ban films. In case of a regional film the loss is huge. In case of Hindi films it depends on the number of states where the film is banned. Once CBFC certified a film no state should ban it. Law and order is an excuse. Films have short life in theatres. Piracy is rampant. DVDs are out within days. Some sites show pirated films.
Rarely a producer takes CBFC to court. It happened in case of Udta Punjab. CBFC ordered 90 cuts including muting of words. Bombay High Court allowed the release of film with one cut and A certificate.
Padmavati is in trouble. Sanjay Leela Bhansali had to shift the shooting of the film from Rajasthan to Maharashtra because some hooligans invaded and vandalised the set and slapped him. When the film is complete some Rajputs in Gujarat said they will not allow the release of Padmavati. It is election time in Gujarat. BJP wants to retain the state. BJP resorted to minority appeasement. Rajput minority is appeased by talk against the film. BJP states banned Padmavati one by one.
CBFC returned Padmavati saying paper work was not complete. Under Prasoon Joshi we hear of unknown rules. It is for the first time I heard CBFC returning a film without certifying it due to incomplete paper work. When the film comes again with complete paper work it will be taken up after other films in queue. Padmavati was to be released on 1st December. Viacaom 18, producing company of Padmavati, announced they have deferred the release of Padmavati “voluntarily”. Law gives CBFC 60 days to certify a film. It is a different matter that many films get certificates in three days as former CBFC member Pankaj Sharma revealed on CNN News18. He said CBFC had acted under political pressure. Now it is said that CBFC will consult historians. That is another delaying tactic. Prasoon Joshi is unhappy that producers had private screening of Padmavati to journalists and people against of Padmavati. He speaks of diluting the importance of CBFC and need of exemption certificate from CBFC for private screening. That is another unknown rule. He has not spoken against states banning certified films or announcing bans before certification and diluting the importance of CBFC.
Announcing bounty for murder or mutilation is a crime. BJP member who announced bounty for beheading of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Deepika Padukone should have been in jail and expelled by BJP. Nothing has happened.
Many times films are banned by state governments for reasons nothing to do with film. Vishwaroopam was banned because Kamal Haasan has spoken P. Chidambaram as the next PM of India and Jayalalithaa was not happy with it. Offending Muslim sentiments was an excuse. Hurting sentiments and threat of violence should not be reasons or excuses for banning films.
In 1989 Tamil Nadu banned Ore Oru Gramathile. Some were against it because it was opposed to caste-based reservations. The ban was challenged. Supreme Court judgment said “If the film is unobjectionable and cannot constitutionally be restricted under Article 19(2), freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration and processions or threats of violence. That would tantamount to negation of the rule of law and surrender to black mail and intimidation. It is the duty of the State to protect the freedom of expression since it is a liberty guaranteed against the State. The State cannot plead its inability to handle the hostile audience problem.”
Once CBFC certifies a film no government, central or state, should have the right to ban the film. Otherwise there is no need of CBFC. It should be disbanded.

Updated: November 23, 2017 — 7:40 am

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