The call to recast India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is gaining traction in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, sources said. The Shyam Benegal committee’s recommendations submitted to I&B Ministry suggesting changes to the Cinematograph Act, sources said, is being considered, and many crucial recommendations, if not all recommendations, are likely to be accepted.
The I&B Ministry had set up a committee in January this year under the chairmanship of noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal for recommending best practices to be followed for certification which don’t restrict artistic freedom while keeping the process transparent. The committee submitted its report to I&B Minister Arun Jaitley in which, among other suggestions, it recommended that the CBFC should stick to certification of films according to content and not carry out cuts in order to “preserve the essence of the film”. The committee also included Kamal Hassan, Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra, Piyush Pandey, Goutam Ghose, Bhawana Somaaya, Nina Lath Gupta, MD, NFDC and K. Sanjay Murthy, Joint Secretary (Films) as Member-Convenor.
“The report submitted by the Shyam Benegal Committee has been received well by the higher-ups in the ministry and the ministers. The suggestions are solid,” a source in the I&B ministry told this newspaper. “The present rules sometimes handicap the filmmakers. A lot of the appointments in the examining committees are not transparent. This whole process is subject to change and it should change soon. This is one of the main recommendations in the report as it affects certification and censor. We are still awaiting some more recommendations from the committee before 20 June. But, the picture, for now, looks promising,” the source said. “What Shyamji’s Committee has said concurs with the opinion of the majority of the (CBFC) board. We all have been saying that our job is not to cut, our job is to certify. The suggestions in the report are also what Arun Jaitley and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore have been saying from day one. I’m quite sure that the recommendations will be accepted,” Ashoke Pandit, filmmaker and member of the CBFC, said. “The suggestions will remove confusion between the industry and the CBFC. A wall has been created between both because of the authoritarian role played by the chairman. Earlier, the chairman never interfered in the certification and censor process because it was not his job to interfere. Now if the recommendations go through, everybody will be at peace,” he added. He argued that the way the board functions allows a lot of unfair bias against the filmmakers, at times. “What are you cutting for? A bigger audience watches the film outside the cinema theatre on their phones and laptops. The recommendations are correct for the industry. Increase the categories for films and then certify the film accordingly in the category. We are intelligent people… What is the need to cut?” he asked.
According to current practice, the film which arrives for certification is presented first to the examining committee and that is the stage where cuts are recommended. “If the producer and director accept the recommended cuts, then it is fine. Otherwise, it goes to the revising board and then to the tribunal for appeals. The chairman is supposed to come only when there is a tie or a problem,” he said.
“By accepting the recommendations, they will empower the filmmakers and improve things,” he said.
The committee also suggested that UA be subdivided as UA12+ & UA15+ and A category be subdivided as A (Adult) and AC (Adult with Caution). The committee also suggested changes in criteria for appointments among others.