New Delhi: The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) or censor board denied certification to as many as 77 films in 2015-16, up 64% from the previous year, the government said.
According to a written reply submitted in the Rajya Sabha by minister of state for information and broadcasting (I&B) Rajyavardhan Rathore, the CBFC had denied certification to only 47 films in 2014-15 and 23 films the year before that. India produces close to 2,000 films each year in over 20 languages.
Certification denial essentially means that these films were denied release after viewing by the examining and revising committees (EC/RC) of CBFC under the proposed categories unless they modified or censored content.
The certifiable categories include U (unrestricted public exhibition), A (restricted to adults), U/A (unrestricted public exhibition with parental discretion required for children below 12 years) or S (restricted to a special class of persons).
However, the decision of the board can be challenged by film-makers in the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). For the year 2015-16, 49 out of 77 films challenged the censor board’s decision in the tribunal.
Among the films denied certification last year were sex comedy Great Grand Masti, psychological thriller Raman Raghav 2.0 and drama thriller Ok Mein Dhoke. Earlier this year, filmmaker Prakash Jha’s Lipstick Under My Burkha was refused certification for being “lady oriented and full of abusive words and audio pornography" while the makers of Swara Bhaskar-starrer Anaarkali of Arrah were asked for 11 cuts.
“There are several reasons (for the rise in films denied certification)," said Pahlaj Nihalani, chairperson of the CBFC. “Content has gotten bolder but there was also a lot of corruption until 2013 and many B and C-grade films would get passed despite great violence and explicit scenes. We have tried to be more stringent in passing films based entirely on merit."
Over time, there has been much debate over the CBFC’s power of certification and censorship intruding on filmmakers’ creative expression and liberty, following which the I&B ministry announced the introduction of a new Cinematograph Act (which governs CBFC) last year to redraw the role of the board.
A committee headed by veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal had also submitted its report on the functioning of the CBFC on 26 April. The committee had suggested a revision in the processes of certifying films and the censorship involved therein.
“The government has a hands-off policy as far as the CBFC is concerned. The perspective of the CBFC chairman also plays a major role in certification of films because that is the thinking of the organization altogether," a government official familiar with the developments in CBFC said, on condition of anonymity.
In fact, the committees set up by the government have sent a message that CBFC should respond to changing times, the person added. It needs to be more liberal and less dogmatic, a concern reiterated by industry experts over time.
“I think we’re becoming more closed and authoritative as a society and losing the spirit of democracy," said Onir, director of films like My Brother...Nikhil and I Am. “It’s rather alarming. If a Manthan or Aakrosh or Chakra were made today, I don’t think they’d be able to come out at all, and these are some of the finest films made in our country. It’s sad that filmmakers like us have to go through all this."
Priyanka Mittal contributed to the story