CBFC chairperson Leela Samson discusses the CEO’s arrest and the board’s problems with Dipti Nagpaul D’Souza
There are allegations against CEO Rakesh Kumar of delaying certification and accepting bribes to clear films.
It’s unfortunate that CBFC finds itself in such an embarrassing position. But who is appointed as the CEO — if he or she is a government servant with no inclination towards the arts or an artiste — is the information and broadcasting ministry’s prerogative. That makes them answerable… But I can say that part of the delay was due to the fact that the term of several board members, including myself, has expired. The I&B ministry is yet to replace them, and there’s a shortage of staff.
Members of the industry say that the complicated procedure allows scope for bribery.
The process has been computerised, but directors and producers choose to opt for the shortcut and go through agents. Like everything else, this process takes time… but filmmakers are not ready with their product till the last moment and want to jump the queue by bribing officials.
How has CBFC dealt with this?
Two years ago, previous CEO Pankaja Thakur and I had taken the initiative to organise regular meetings among various stakeholders, such as filmmakers, board and panel members, screenwriters, editors, broadcasters. We did address the subject of procedures, but the response to the meets was often poor. Eventually, the I&B stopped giving us money to conduct the meetings. They didn’t even let us ever come face-to-face with Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), our equivalent for television, to work out a common certification process. Once a film has been certified by CBFC, it shouldn’t need to be re-certified for TV. Chopping chunks out cannot make an ‘A’ (adult) film U/A. TV needs a slot for ‘A’ films.
You have several complaints against the I&B ministry.
Manish Tewari [former minister] treated the board very shoddily. The board has been extremely forward looking. The Justice Mudgal report, in charge of reviewing CBFC policies, guidelines and functioning, put together many progressive suggestions to the minister… The country makes films in many languages, but the certification process itself is explained in Hindi and English alone. Replacing that with a pictoral guidelines chart was also a suggestion. Several discussions and meetings with NGOs, women’s organisations and minority groups were held to refine our certification process. All this is sitting in a file somewhere, waiting to be brought up in Parliament, but the I&B ministry hasn’t cared so far. Let’s see how the new government responds to us.
Films often get subjected to moral censorship.
We would like to remain free of passing any judgement. But our decisions are sometimes affected by the views of people part of the board and the panel — they come from a mix of backgrounds, which is only fair. Personally, I do find certain nudity and cuss words bordering on vulgarity, but the liberal view is that CBFC should allow individuals to decide what they wish to watch and what they don’t. I am willing to adopt that view if we are allowed to.