Saheli Dey: Bollywood, being the largest film industry in Asia, in terms of the number of movies it produces every year, provides a lot of flops, hits and averages regularly. But there is another brand of the Indian cinema, which is deliberately kept sidelined, out of the reach from its viewers. Films that indulge bold languages, bold scenes, gender and various debatable issues. Movies which are way ahead of its time, comes under the scrutiny of the present Censor Board.
The Censor Board of Film Certification or commonly known as the CBFC certifies each and every movie before they can be publicly shown in India. But controversies mar this board. And why should it not! It is of great concern that how much power they misuse and how much do they utilize.
The Constitution of India guarantees us the freedom of speech and expression. A right, where we have the liberty, to speak our minds and voice our opinions. If the constitution guarantees its citizens to express at will, then why can a director not express his or her views through his or her portrayal using the means of cinema? It is true that there are limitations in both ends; CBFC must not go beyond its power while a director/producer must not go beyond the ethics. But what if one crosses the limit? That is where the controversy begins.
We have witnessed the banning of several Indian films. Several bans are justified. ‘Kama Sutra, A Tale Of Love’, a hypocritical movie in 1996, which faced the wrath of the Censor Board, was banned completely. The board stated the movie’s content as ‘explicit’, ‘unethical’ and ‘immoral’ for the audiences of the nation. This intervention of the board is logical and must be supported; after all, though Indians are ardent followers of ‘Westernization’ and get influenced by the ‘Demonstration Effect’, they are not Westerns, after all. Our culture still fails to accept such bold concepts shown publicly. An ‘A’ certification would also prove minimal to such movies.
But the banning of the 1994’s movie, Bandit Queen, cannot be accepted. It was criticized by the board as an ‘offensive’, ‘vulgar’, ‘indecent’. But this ‘Phoolan Devi’ biopic deserves accolades. Though banned for its explicit sexual content, nudity and abusive language, yet the story is way above these negative aspects. The Censor Board could not digest some simple facts and incidents of our land.
Recently, ‘Udta Punjab’ made headlines when the Board proposed 89 cuts from the film. Finally, the court ruled out this demand and eventually the film was released with just one cut and with ‘A’ certification. The board objected the vulgar and abusive languages used in the movie, vivid portrayal of the drug menace in society, lead actor urinating in front of the audience and many such scenes. Abraham Lincoln’s famous definition of democracy is, “Government is of the people, by the people, for the people.” Who is wrong – Lincoln or Censor Board? It is disappointing to attack our Board using such terms. But the board needs to understand that today’s generation believes in infotainment. They just do not demand their favourite heroes to romance their heroines, but they want facts and information, too. The board can achieve nothing by suppressing news of drug menace. The truth is known to everybody. Why can it not come out through the most common mass communicator, that is, the film media?
Censorship has been a major issue, which denies access to vital information. It ignores the people’s right to freedom. When censoring is justified to safeguard the access of children, it must be kept in mind that the parents can play an important role in protecting their child from viewing such contents. It is the parents’ job to check if their children are going the wrong way and make sure they could reason their children which is right and which is wrong.
Censoring does not always help. Due to the advent of the new media, everything is easily available. All censored movies can be watched without cut, downloaded online. If censorship can be done in entirety, paradoxically which is democratically unethical, then it would be fruitful. Else we must condemn and say ‘Go Back CENSORSHIP’.