“Censorship is when a work of art expressing an idea which does not fall under current convention is seized, cut up, withdrawn, impounded, ignored, maligned, or otherwise made inaccessible to its audience.”
— Ritu Menon, for Women’s World Organisation for Rights, Literature, and Development
Cinema in India emerged in the 1890s and soon came to Bombay. Around that time, there was already some regulation of dramatic performances. We had the Dramatic Performances Act of 1876 and India also got press controls. Around the First World War, British decided that cinema would need its own laws. The British government was much more worried about cinema sending out messages of freedom and independence rather than about moralistic matters
Post Independence autonomy of regional censors was abolished and they were brought under the purview of Bombay Board of Film Censors. After implementing the Cinematograph Act, 1952, the board was unified and reconstituted, as the Central Board of Film Censors. Cinematograph (Certification) Rules were revised in 1983 and since then the Central Board of Film Censors became known as the Central Board of Film Certification. All Indian films are certified under CBFC. It is a statutory body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and its headquarters lies in Mumbai.
Currently films are certified under 4 heads, namely- U, UA, A and S. U stands for unrestricted public exhibition, UA stands for unrestricted public exhibition- but with a word of caution that parental discretion required for children below 12 years, A stands for restricted to adults and S stands for restricted to any special class of persons.
Recently, Udta Punjab controversy was in the headlines and in other social media. The film speaks about crucial and social issue of drug abuse and related crimes in Punjab. The controversy broke in when the Chairperson of CBFC tried to stop the release of the film and demanded to extract the word Punjab from their title and suggested 89 cuts. From then on, a debate started brewing up between the makers of the film and the Chairperson, Pahlaj Nihalani. Now it is clear that the censors are trying to bleep out things and a certain kind of ultra-conservativeness is being imposed. But is that really possible in this day and age, especially with technology that can make censorship redundant?
There was a huge controversy in connection with the kissing scene in Dhoom 2 resulting in people burning movie’s posters and obstructing people from entering the cinema halls to watch the film. Vishwaroopam, a Tamil film was blocked by the Tamil Nadu government after a protest from the Muslim Community. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad protested against the women modelling dresses bearing images of Hindu Gods. A Fatwa was brought against all girls rock band saying it was Un-Islamic. Cartoonist and activist, Aseem Trivedi, was sent to jail on the grounds of sedition for publishing a series of cartoons highlighting corruption in India. Taking into account the above incidents, it seems that it’s not actually the government censoring but rather the self employed moral police doing the job.
As it stands, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s decision to form a three-member expert committee under veteran Shyam Benegal to revamp the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has been a good move by the government.
The big question that arises now is whether censorship should be abolished or not? Many argue that we should follow the US model, an industry body that automates, rather than a government-appointed set up. When it comes to artistic freedom, allow a creative person to think freely without official intervention but at the same time, what you are creating is mass media. It becomes a part of mainstream discourse. What you produce has the potency to influence the public. Therefore, some amount of censorship is pertinent.
Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; make or become automatic
Synonyms : automatize
- Brewing up
Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; to form a plan, or arrange in the mind
Synonyms : devise
- Bleep out
Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; remove offensive material from a broadcast
Synonyms : bowdlerize
Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; serious discussion about something between people or groups
Synonyms : discussion
Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; the freedom or authority to judge something or make a decision about it, e.g. Tipping is left to the customer’s discretion.
Synonyms : judgment
- Moral police
Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; based on what somebody’s conscience suggests is right or wrong, rather than on what rules or the law says should be done
Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; a capacity for growth or development
Synonyms : effectiveness
Contextual Meaning(s) : adjective; relevant to the matter being considered
Synonyms : applicable, appropriate
Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; The range of interest or activity that can be anticipated
Synonyms : ambit, domain
Contextual Meaning(s) : verb; to improve the condition or structure of something, alter something for better
Synonyms : refurbish
Contextual Meaning(s) : adjective; not or no longer needed or wanted
Synonyms : superfluous
Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; actions or words intended to provoke or incite rebellion against government authority
Synonyms : troublemaking
Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; exceeding or going beyond all other of the same kind
Synonyms : extreme