Given the continuous threats to freedom of expression and censorship in the country, National Award-winning filmmaker Shyam Benegal says the situation with regards to cinema is reminiscent of the Emergency era.
Comparing the situation that films find themselves in today to what was prevalent more than 40 years ago during the Emergency, Benegal said there isn’t much difference.
At a panel discussion at FICCI Frames titled “Controlling Creativity: Is Censorship Relevant?”, the moderator asked Shyam Benegal, “Are we in danger of going back to the ’70s with Padmaavat, Udta Punjab and now even the film being made on Rani Jhansi, where the producers are already shivering? Are we living in those times?”
To which the acclaimed filmmaker replied, “We probably are going back to it in some ways. I think so. In 1975-77, my own films one after the other faced problems. One film was even banned. We are going in that kind of a thing. That’s why I say we need a debate on a larger scale.”
Shyam Benegal has been a longtime critic of censorship and also headed a committee in 2016, which suggested that Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) should limit its functioning to issuing certificates to movies and not impose censoring.
The filmmaker said there is a difference between private and public viewing, which is the government’s concern and here certification becomes important.
“When you see something privately and when you see something publicly, the impact is different. Not enough work has been done to analyse and study this. This is something which I’m concerned about. Individual viewing and public viewing.
“Public viewing is what the government actually worries about. It is the reason for having CBFC. You can see anything privately, which is why when television came, nobody worried about certification there,” Benegal said.