The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has time and again proved themselves to be the mere puppets of the ministry. This time they have done it again, turning down Ka Bodyscapes, directed by Jayan Cherian and also attacking Lipstick Under My Burkha. This time the board is stating the reasons that the film glorifies homosexuality, nudity and hurts Hindu sentiments about vulgarity and obscenity, and the usual slogan of being a threat to the law and order.
Despite the glorified 100 years of Indian cinema, of which a major time share was controlled by the colonial rulers, it’s ironic how the ministry still calls the shots on who certifies and sensors the films. How is it that, the Information and Broadcasting ministry decide on what is acceptable to the masses? The Indian filmscape has over the years, progressed a lot, and after decades of mass-masala films and a profit oriented business, finally films are being made on a large scale that incite creative thinking and questioning of the world around us. And then the censor board steps in to save the day and cut every bit of film that might actually get the audience to have a brainstorm.
The censor board has been built on rules and notions that have been outdated by decades. It is imminent that the board has to be revamped to meet the audience of the current generation. The Cinematograph Act and Cinematograph Rules under which the CBFC functions date back to 1952 and 1983, respectively. A passage of a 1989 Supreme Court judgment that says in part: “The combination of act and speech, sight and sound… will have a strong impact on the minds of the viewers and can affect emotions. Therefore, it has… potential for evil… Censorship by prior restraint is, therefore, not only desirable but also necessary.’’
This approach has always been based on one sentiment, the government’s fear of the audience. This fear made sense, at the time of birth of the film industry in India. In an era, where the colonial masters where trying to subdue the masses and assert control over the nation, the power of cinema was a huge threat to authoritarian government. But even after India gained independence, the new Indian government too faced the same fears. The partition, emergency ruling and the consequent storms, the government indeed feared the power of motion films. But the fear and paranoia should have been dumped a long time ago. If the government fears that a free thinking society is a threat to their existence, then the government is to be blamed for their actions and not the film industry.
Themes such as sex, homosexuality, transgender, religion have always been a taboo subject in our society. The CBFC board members are going the extra mile to ensure that these topics remain a taboo. The most recent attack on ka bodyscpaes has proven again that the ministry is afraid of the creation of a free thinking society. The board has shrugged behind the reason of religious sentiments, but it’s clearly evident that the glorification of homosexuality is what troubles them. The bollywood and mainstream media has over the years untiringly struggled to heteronomize the human relationships. The board has taken law into their hands, as there are no proper legal strictures on the representation of homosexuality. All this points to cruise of cultural fascism and the fact that the rights of an individual of alternative sexual orientation can be snatched away so casually.
Another notable incident was the ban on airing of the documentary by BBC, ‘India’s Daughter’, which was an elaborate coverage on the Nirbhaya case that shook the whole nation. The documentary was banned on the grounds of law and order issues. The story focused on the minds f the criminals, the lawyers who appeared for them and targeted the patriarchal domination present in our society. And instead of promoting the cause to ensure further incidents are prevented, the board banned the documentary saying it would cause law and order issues.
It’s a fact, that the censor board has always been puppets of the government and only functioned in the interest of the government over years. It is imminent that the system of reviewing and certification needs a major revamp to accommodate the needs and views of a modern and more educated population , rather than function on the rules established in a bygone era. The government is answerable to the people and the fear of questioning is what ensures a corruption free functioning. It’s high time they looked beyond the narrow visions and their conservative boundaries and promote growth of sensible censorship.