Censhorship axe

The Censor Board’s new directive to delete objectionable content is bad news for Indian cinephiles and film-makers

Written by Kaushani Banerjee | Mumbai | Published: June 27, 2014 12:00 am

India’s Censor Board of Film Certification commonly known as the Censor Board is primarily meant to previews films, including trailers, short films and documentaries that plays at cinemas. But increasingly the Censor Board film regulations have taken a stringent stance against violence and sexual content depicted in films. The latest diktat claims to delete objectionable scenes instead of blurring them. Not just objectionable scenes the Board has also decided that inappropriate dialogues will be muted in the film instead of being beeped. The new regulations could have possibly stemmed from the fact that a lot of directors are not complying with the Censor Board’s directives, but I feel it is an extremely regressive measure. In the past I have been embroiled in controversy, when the villain’s name in my film Choclate was considered objectionable. The Censor Board said that the character’s last name Karzai resembled that of the Afghanisthan President and it had to be changed to Afzai. Under pressure from the producer, I agreed to the change at that point in time.
A lot of film today have adult themes, but the decision to edit out parts of the film just because they don’t sit well with a section of the Board is senseless as many a times certain crucial plot details are revealed or the story line is carried forward in those inappropriate scenes. Barring a few instances, the Censor Board rarely faces intervention from the government. A lot of films have to face the axe only because the Censor Board claims to protect people’s sentiment while some of it may be real, but much of it is imagined.
The essential question to ask is how did we get here? The biggest reason is probably the bureaucratic nature of Censor Board appointments, which is the only explanation for such directives. A person with no understanding of films cannot be given the job of deciding what content is suitable for Indian audiences.
Films like Dedh Ishqiya and The Xposé have come under the scanner in the recent past for not following the guidelines laid down by the Censor Board, but what they need to understand is that with the onslaught of the new generation and new cinema, a fresh set of rules need to be laid down. Blurring and pixalising scenes only creates more curiosity and fuels people’s imagination. Pixiling the shots and beeping abusive language is childish when you are watching a film.
Censorship does little to the cause of trying to protect viewers. Our audience is mature enough to watch the type of films that are made today. And this can be understood by the kind of videos stand-up comedians upload on the internet. Those videos are full of explicit content. The urban society that promises to be a global player cannot afford to have such restrictive measures laid down on such an important art medium like cinema.
Viewers perspective changes only when they see realistic and mature films. On one hand Bollywood is often blamed for dumbing down the audience, but all that the Censor Board does is to chop out mature content. What needs to be understood is that serious content cannot exist without being challenging.

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