Prasoon Joshi, the newly appointed chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), believes there’s a need for the censor body and filmmakers to have mutual understanding and appreciation of each one’s roles and responsibilities. He says his focus will be on driving sound decisions which may or may not be “popular”.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. Were you expecting to be appointed the chairperson of the CBFC? What was your reaction to the new responsibility?
I was on a flight when the announcement was made and was deluged with messages and calls as soon as I landed. From my perspective, this responsibility requires a collaborative approach.
Q. There is widespread speculation as to the changes that are likely to happen in the running of the CBFC. Please shed light on what ground rules you would like to follow.
What can I say about speculations? Of course, suggestions that come from thinking minds can provide insight. As far as frameworks are concerned, as an industry we operate as one and as part of the eco-system. So does the CBFC, where there are current guidelines, my attempt would be to guide and view the work holistically.
Q. Your predecessor Pahlaj Nihalani made many unpopular decisions on behalf of the CBFC. Do you see yourself reversing some of the negative images that the CBFC has acquired lately?
Mr. Nihalani is a senior member of the industry and it would not be fair to comment on his tenure. Also, I think the focus should not be on whether a decision is popular but whether it’s a sound one. Progress cannot be done in isolation.
Q. So what is your short-term solution?
CBFC and the film industry need to collaborate so that there is mutual understanding and appreciation of each one’s roles and responsibilities.
Q. Producers expect you to be “liberal”, as they define liberal, meaning they think that, under your stewardship, the CBFC will provide certification to all films without cuts. Please clarify.
When one comes with an open mind respectful of varied points of view, then any particular definition or tag is not relevant. I fully understand that creative people don’t like to be made overtly conscious of their work through checks and balances.
Q. But surely every progressive culture needs to restrain itself?
I agree. Most of the time internal checks and balances develop organically in the community. As far as possible, I would like to be guided by that principle.
Q. Is there any self-imposed guideline that you will use as censor chief?
We have taken cognisance of the vulnerable ends of our society. For when we are interested in creating for people at large, we can’t create in absolute suspension and tapered interest and some important aspects are best kept in mind.
Q. It sounds like a thankless task.
It’s not simple, yes, but then life is about trying to strike a fine balance.
Q. While the popular liberal view stipulates that the CBFC only certify films, the Information, and Broadcasting Ministry guidelines suggest that scenes and shots that are “objectionable” be pruned. How do you look at this dichotomy between what should be and what is?
There are views that there should only be certification of content and the decision to decide what’s appropriate or good or inappropriate should be left to the audience. This view I can understand, but we all also know that it’s a layered and complex society we live in with not all having the same information and sensibility filters. To begin with, we need to ensure that those not in an empowered state or situation to decide, are also taken note of. Say for example children. It’s about the power of informed choice. And for that to come into complete play, it’s important that there are no gaps in audience awareness and information about the kind of content being presented. We need to work towards any goal with awareness and responsibility from all ends.
Q. As a liberal, right-thinking intellectual mind, do you feel the audience should be given the right to see all films regardless of the quality of the content?
If we are talking about the quality of content produced by our cinema, I genuinely feel we have such a huge talent pool and so much richness of narrative to draw from that we can leverage the finer aspects not just for our country or subcontinent, but create a deeper, more influential impact on world cinema and global audiences.
Q. Finally, what should producers and filmmakers expect from you in your capacity as the censor chief?
Discussion, dialogue and mutual respect for varied points of view.