Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal, the chairperson of a committee that has recommended guidelines for certification of films by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), says the censor board’s job is only to certify movies. Benegal admits there is a constant tussle between certification and censorship that creates obstacles in the freedom of creative expression.
Addressing the media and audience at the ongoing Ficci Frames 2017 conclave during a session titled “Censorship Woes: Media & Entertainment’s Battle against Thousands Cuts”, Benegal read out some set rules of certification for CBFC. He said, “The job of the CBFC is to classify and certify the cinema for releasing, but not to instruct the filmmaker to make cuts. They are not here to tell filmmakers what to show and what not to, in a film.”
Moderated by stand-up comedian Tanmay Bhat of All India Bakchod (AIB) fame, the session was attended by filmmaker Vishesh Bhatt, Avindra Mohan, President – Legal and regulatory, Zee Network Ltd, and actor-filmmaker Anupam Sharma. When asked if any filmmaker can take CBFC to the court, Benegal said, “No one can take CBFC to court because it is a statutory board.”
There is censorship for television too. None of the “A” certified film can be released on the small screen, said Avindra Mohan. “It becomes a problem for many films where even after getting a certificate for theatrical release, the film goes through another process of certification for its television release. I have seen that during that process, films at times go through 120 cuts,” Mohan said.
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Considering the fact that in recent times, there are many films like Haraamkhor and Udta Punjab which end up getting embroiled in controversy with the CBFC and then ultimately getting a release, Tanmay Bhat quipped, “I think CBFC is becoming a publicity board for these films. Such controversies make news and give these films publicity and in the end, people go to theatre to watch the film.”