Just months after the storm kicked up by the Pahlaj Nihalani headed Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had settled with Nihalani’s exit, the Centre has sparked off a fresh row by telling the Supreme Court that ‘pre-censorship’ of films was absolutely necessary.
Just months after the storm kicked up by the Pahlaj Nihalani headed Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had settled with Nihalani’s exit, the Centre has sparked off a fresh row by telling the Supreme Court that ‘pre-censorship’ of films was absolutely necessary. The CBFC, under Nihalani, was pejoratively nicknamed the “sanskari Board” after it demanded excessive cuts in many movies, including Lipstick Under My Burkha, the last James Bond flick, etc. That the Censor Board could make blatantly political demands was exposed when it wanted the makers of Udta Punjab to drop “Punjab” from the title.
All the brouhaha aside, the fact remains films can be posted online and watched by millions without going through a certification process, making censorship ineffective, even irrelevant. Today, a viewer can legally watch Lipstick Under My Burkha—there is little in it to that would elicit a squeamish response from a viewer—on streaming services like Amazon Prime while it isn’t hard to find a copy of Paanch, the crime flick that never made it to certification under a different (before Nihalani) CBFC, on some streaming website.
What’s worse, by rejecting certain films, the CBFC creates a two-pronged problem—it generates greater-than-usual curiosity about such a film, while unaware guardians don’t get to know that their ward could be watching something that is not age/maturity appropriate on the sly.
The Shyam Benegal committee set up in 2016 had recommended that CBFC function only as a film certification body and that it refuse certification only when a “film contains anything that contravenes the provisions of Section 5B (1) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952” and, crucially, when “the content in a film crossed the ceiling laid down in the highest category of certification”.
Section 5B (1) of the Act forbids certification of a film that endangers the security of the nation and public order, among other things. In the face of such progressive methods of control, pressing for censorship powers for the CBFC would seem out-of-touch with reality.