According to a recent directive of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), filmmakers are required to submit an undertaking that prohibits them from releasing the censored portions of their films anywhere, including the Internet.
The rule was introduced following the hearing of a PIL that said that censored scenes of films like Mastizaade and Kya Kool Hain Hum 3 were available on YouTube.
If you have wondered what happens to the scenes that are chopped by the CBFC, here’s the answer. Under the Indian Cinematograph Act, 1952, censored portions of all films exhibited in India are deposited with the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) by the CBFC. As on date, nearly 20,000 film scenes are safely stored in the NFAI vaults at both Law College Road as well as Kothrud, collected over several decades.
“There is no fixed date when the CBFC sends us the scenes cut from the films. Generally, we receive them once a year. It is also difficult to quantify the number of scenes sent by the Board in a year because its different every year,” said director of NFAI, Prakash Magdum.
While many think that censored scenes include only the “objectionable obscene content”, the collection indicates many scenes are censored for other reasons too. For instance, scenes that are assumed to be a threat to the religious sentiments of any community and national security are also “cut”.
K S Sasidharan, who was the deputy director and curator of NFAI from 1994 to 2002 followed by stint as director from 2002 to 2008, says, “Scenes that are too violent and gory are also sometimes censored.”
Accessing the stored censored scenes is not easy. The interested candidate needs permission from the institute wherein he needs to specify the objective of seeking an access to the material.
Magdum says the institute does not receive such requests very often though. “Those who seek permission are generally film researchers. Even if the permission is granted, the candidate can view the material in the NFAI premises only,” he says.
Sasidharan says that nearly 15 years ago, the practice of giving permission to researchers to access the film scenes was suspended for a few months fearing its misuse. However, it soon resumed.
Recollecting an unfortunate incident, he says, “During my tenure as a director, once a person from West Bengal visited the institute and demanded to see a few films on the pretext of being a ‘researcher’. When he couldn’t prove his credentials, we refused to give him permission. He threatened of dire consequences but I didn’t budge. So basically, handling and upkeep of such material requires a lot of care and discretion.”