15 Dec 2017
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CBFC should act only as a film certification body: Shyam Benegal

MUMBAI: The constant tug of war between certification and censorship comes in the way of filmmakers’ freedom of creative expression.

On the second day of FICCI Frames 2017, veteran filmmaker and chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) Shyam Benegal stated that the CBFC should only act as a film certification body as the name suggests.

As per the guidelines, the CBFC cannot act as the moral compass by deciding which issues need to be glorified or silenced. The role of the CBFC is largely to decide who and what category of audience can watch the depiction of a particular theme or story unless the said film violates Section 5(b)91 of the Cinematograph Act 1952 or exceeds the limitations defined in the highest category of certification recommended by the Benegal committee.

As per the above mentioned guidelines, the CBFC can reject film certification but is not authorised to dictate modifications or amendments. “CBFC categorisation should be a sort of statuary warning for audience regarding what to expect when they watch the film. Once the CBFC issues statuary warning, film viewing becomes a consensual act and is up to the viewers’ discretion. The way the film is shown and the way it should be is only with the person who made the film. Certification is essentially meant to guide as to what kind of film it is,” Benegal stated.

The panel, which was moderated by All India Bakchod’s (AIB) Tanmay Bhat, also saw the participation of filmmaker Vishesh Bhatt, Zee Network president, legal and regulatory, Avindra Mohan, and actor-filmmaker Anupam Sharma, along with Benegal.

The panel further discussed censorship woes and the battle of the media industry against cuts. Mohan said that censorship was not only limited to film but also affected television. None of the ‘A’-rated films can be shown on the small screen in any time band.

“Films go through another process of certification for their television broadcast, during which they at times go through 120 cuts,” he added.

At this point, Bhat raised the question whether a filmmaker could take the CBFC to the court, to which Benegal replied by saying, “No one can take the CBFC to the court because it is a statutory board.”

Bhat then referred to recent films like ‘Haraamkhor’ and ‘Udta Punjab’ getting embroiled in controversy with the CBFC before their release. Such controversy, he said, acted like free publicity for the films, and in the end, more people went to the theatre to see what the controversy was all about.