Saffron is the New Colour of the Censor BoardThe NDA government has been quick to make new appointments to the Central Board of Film Certification after the resignation of the chairperson, Leela Samson and 9 other members. Filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani has been appointed the new Chairman.
By Sunil Garodia
But the appointments have immediately created controversy as most of the new appointees are close to the BJP and some are even active RSS members. Nihalani himself had made the election video of ÃÂ¢Ã¢âÂ¬ÃÅHar Ghar ModiÃÂ¢Ã¢âÂ¬Ã¢"Â¢ for the BJP before the last general elections and is an unabashed Modi admirer. This has led to the charge that the CBFC is being ÃÂ¢Ã¢âÂ¬Ã "saffronized.ÃÂ¢Ã¢âÂ¬ÃÂ
Film certification is a necessity even in a country like the USA where the Constitution allows unabridged freedom of speech and expression. But the US film industry itself follows some norms and certifies films for viewership according to age. In other countries, there are independent bodies funded by the government. In India, we have a government appointed board, under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, filled by people chosen by the government of the day. Although Regional Boards have Advisory Panels attached to them where ordinary peole help them in certification, this Advisory Panel is also appointed by the government.
This is not good. There should be an independent body with representation from the film industry, the government and the civil society. This should be the norm for both the main and the regional bodies. These bodies can be funded by the industry, or by the government and the industry in equal proportions. They should have fixed tenures for their members and transparent guidelines for certification. The appellate structure should also be well defined.
Further, a professional set up is necessary to avoid unnecessary hold-ups. Film making is costly business and release dates are fixed well in advance, sometimes even 12 to 18 months ago. If a film is held up by the CBFC, producers lose money and it would be very difficult to get the next date for releasing the film without clashing with another big budget production, resulting in a loss for both. Transparent guidelines, professional set up and well defined appellate structure would ensure smoothness in the process.
Although former CBFC chairman Anupam Kher has said that there is no corruption in the body, some of its decisions are baffling. Leela Samson has been accused of not attending meetings in the last 9 months and not taking any steps to improve the working of the CBFC. If Pahlaj Nihalani, being a filmmaker and being close to the ruling party, can bring the industry on board to streamline the processes and bring about transparency, it would encourage the formation of an independent board. But with the Hindutva elements raising their heads on every platform, there is a danger that the new appointees would toe the saffron line and stop the liberal view the CBFC has been taking for the last few years.
That would be a real tragedy. For, with the internet now in every palm, we do not need censors who are prudes. We need censors who examine films only to see that they do not violate the laws of the land, specifically Article 19(2) of the Constitution and the various sections of the CrPC spawned by it. Their prime duty should be to certify films for viewership by age according to the content.