Updated: February 3, 2015 9:05:32 am
After the recent furore over the resignation of its board members earlier this month, the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) has once again found itself at the centre of a controversy. On Sunday, musician Mihir Joshi tweeted that the word ‘Bombay’ in the video of his song titled Sorry had been beeped out after the CBFC took objection to it. “I was informed by the label in November that CBFC has suggested the use of ‘Mumbai’ instead. I didn’t object because the use of the word wasn’t integral to the song and I wanted it to release on TV soon,” said Joshi.
Following Joshi, filmmaker Arati Raval-Pandey tweeted on Monday that the censor board in August 2014 had asked her to edit out seven seconds of content where the word ‘Bombay’ was used in her short film Silvatein. “The film addresses the issue of migrants and displacement. In the scene I had to edit out, a character says that ‘Bombay’ has changed since 1992, to which the girl says, ‘Kaunsa Bombay? It isn’t even called that now!’ Despite the contextual reference, I was asked to edit out the portion from my short film,” said Mumbai-based Raval-Pandey.
Joshi’s tweet has since managed to create a furore among citizens who are questioning CBFC’s move. Pahlaj Nihalani, the current chairperson of the censor board who took over the organisation’s reins earlier this month, clarified that the certification took place when the previous board, led by Leela Samson, was in power.
However, he backed the examining committee’s decision saying, “The city is no more called ‘Bombay’; no sensible writer will employ that word to address the city.” He also added that the examining committee objected to the use because the government guidelines to the CBFC specify that the word ‘Bombay’ not be used. “Government has issued a guideline to CBFC that disallows the use of the word ‘Bombay’. Even ‘Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai’ didn’t use ‘Bombay’ in its title, although it was a period film,” he added.
An official earlier engaged with the CBFC and a few old board members, however, said they are not aware of any such guideline or written order. Attempts to confirm the same with CBFC CEO Shravan Kumar, Regional Officer Raju Vaidya (authorised signatory on the certificate) and Examining Officer Deepak Tandel yielded no response in spite of repeated calls, text messages and email.
While the blame is squarely being placed on the shoulder of the board led by Samson, the case, in fact, brings to light the larger issues that have for long been plaguing CBFC. Take for example the fact that the committee members taking such decisions, selected by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, are rarely familiar or sensitised to the arts or cinema in specific.
Film critic Rajeev Masand, who was on the CBFC board until his resignation recently, says this is one of the reasons why Samson and the board members resigned. “We are expected to shoulder the blame for acts by people who aren’t even selected or whetted by the chairperson or the board, who have no background in cinema or the arts,” he retorted, adding that according to the rules, two-third of the committee members are supposed to be selected by the Board and the remaining by the ministry. “We sent so many recommendations each time but the I&B always chose their own people, not one person suggested by us was brought in as part of the committee.”
While the larger issues go unnoticed, the debate over ‘Bombay’ and ‘Mumbai’ rages on. Joshi, whose video hit the small screen last week, has now decided to confront CBFC and seek an answer as to why they demanded the word be changed. “I intend to get in touch with the label and together with them approach CBFC. If their response doesn’t seem logical, I will demand that they allow ‘Bombay’ to be retained in my video.”
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