A film submitted for approval of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) now is more likely to suffer cuts than it would have been five years ago. This is what data about film certification awarded by CBFC in last five years and obtained by a Pune-based activist shows.
As per the data, obtained using Right To Information Act, in 2013-14, when the CBFC was headed by Leela Samson, the Board ordered cuts in 41.71 per cent of the total films before certification, in 2018-19, the Board headed by Prasoon Joshi has asked 67.19 per cent films to delete scenes before getting an exhibition certificate. In 2013-14, a total of 1,966 films were awarded exhibition certificates by the CBFC while the number went up to 2,246 in 2018-19, the data shows.
In fact, the data — obtained by activist Vihar Durve — shows a clear trend in last five years of steady increase in number of films taking cuts before getting certified (see table). In 2013-14, 820 (41.71 per cent) films were passed after scenes or dialogues from the films were cut; in 2014-15 this number reached 890 (48.24 per cent), in 2015-16 it became 1,021 (53.65 per cent), in 2016-17 it climbed to 1,084 (54.55 per cent), in 2017-18 the number reached 1,127 (61.70 per cent) and finally climbing to 1,509 (67.19 per cent) in 2018-19.
Shyam Benegal panel submitted report in ’16, action yet to be taken
While instances of cuts being ordered in films are on the rise, the government has not taken any steps to implement the recommendations of the Shyam Benegal-headed committee on film censorship, which submitted its report in June 2016. The committee had recommended abolition of the system of imposing excisions, modifications and changes to a film and had proposed that the CBFC should function as purely a certification body and not a censoring body. Last month, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said in Parliament that owing to “intricate complexities involved in the matter”, no decision has been taken by the government on the recommendations of the committee.
During this period, the CBFC, which remains a contentious post with political significance as it often causes controversy, was headed by three different individuals — danseuse Leela Samson (appointed May 2011 until she resigned in January 2015), film producer Pahlaj Nihalani (January 2015 till August 2017) and Prasoon Joshi (August 2017 till date).
The data also shows how film production on celluloid has dried down in recent years. While in 2013-14, 188 films shot on celluloid came before the Board for certification and the number went on shrinking in subsequent years; 18 in 2014-15, one each in 2015-16 and 2016-17. In the last two years, none of the films that came for certification was shot on celluloid.
“CBFC works in a very murky manner and to bring some transparency there I have been filing RTIs and obtaining information since 2010. I had made the latest petition to know how the film certification business was carried out during the tenures of three different chiefs who are political appointees,” said the RTI activist.
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