Recent weeks witnessed high melodrama over censorship of film on drug abuse – Udta Punjab, produced by prominent filmmaker Anurag Kashyap.
Amid this entire episode of hullabaloo, the major concern emerges is the decline of freedom of creatively in the film industry, excessive involvement of political interest triggering threat to freedom of expression.
Including Shahid Kapoor starer Udta Punjab, which has had 94 cuts proposed by Central Board of Film Certifications (CBFC), there are dozens of movies which have been a prey of over-censorship in recent times.
In recent past 2 years, a large numbers of films had gone through Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) due to excessive cuts proposed by CBFC, which had not been so frequent in Indian film history.
Indian film industry has been an outspoken critic of contemporary issues in the nation which not only brought social awareness but helped government in shaping politics to resolve the problems.
Indian film industry, including Bollywood, Kollywood, and other regional cinema, always tried to bring such issues forward which were neglected by government, but overindulgence of censorship may prove to demoralize the filmmakers and producers on indulging such projects owing to financial threats.
There is a growing concern among film fraternity on making films on such critical political and social issues.
In recent incidence, which triggered nationwide outrage, CBFC’s blatant objection on Udta Punjab based on surging drug abuse in the Punjab state of India sparked huge controversy, with whole film industry registered a stronger objection on CBFS’s arbitrary decision. The objections were known to be politically motivated to suppress the freedom of expression of film industry.
Anurag Kashyap had gone to high court when CBFC did not pass the film without any cuts. CBFC’s officials absurd attitude and the chief of CBFC Pankaj Nehlani’s open political interest definitely endangers the film industry’s freedom in India.
Censor Board curbing freedom of expression
Not only Udta Punjab, but dozens of such controversy erupted in last 2 years due to unwanted objections of Censor Board. Film which faced either total ban or had to remove substantial scenes include Mohalla Assi, The Painted House, The Mastermind Jinda Sukha, Kaum De Heere, Unfreedom and Main Hoon Rajinikanth, En Dino Muzaffarnagar, Dance of Democracy: Battel for Benaras, NH10, No Fire Zone: In the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka, Veerappan, Aligarh.
Directed by Ram Gopal Verma, it was a biopic on dacoit Veerappan. Although the film was granted ‘A’ citification, still CBFC objected several dialogues referring former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by LTTE chief Prabhakaran. The reason given by CBFC was the threat of hurting sentiments of Tamil.
A national wide social media outrage erupted when Aligarh, a movie based on homosexuality, was given ‘A’ certificate. The movie, directed by Hansal Mehta, is based on the true story of AMU professor Dr Ramchandra Siras. It was however released with several cuts proposed by the Board.
En Dino Muzaffarnagar
The 147-minute documentary film based on 2013 Muzzaffanafar Hindu-Muslim riots was denied certifications on the grounds of danger to national security and harmony. Upholding Board’s decision, Film Certification Appellate Tribunal said, that the film is highly critical of a particular political party.
Dance of Democracy: Battle for Benaras
Another documentary film based on 2014 electoral fight between Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, directed by Kalam Swaroop was also refused certification due to inflammatory speeches by politicians that may cause communal tension. The filmmakers moved the Delhi High Court against the ban.
Anushka Sharma starrer NH 10 also went through trouble with CBFC due to a couple of violent scenes and use of abuse words. Director Navdeep Singh in a statement to media said that when they went to get their certificate, half the members wanted to ban the film.
The Jungle Book
Not only Indian, but foreign movies have also been a prey of over-censorship of CBFC board in recent time. Surprisingly, child movie ‘The Jungle Book’, directed by Jon Favreau under the banner of Disney, was awarded U/A certification which meant that child under 12 have to be accompanied by adult. The decision drew worldwide criticism. Board claimed that the 3D effects in film were scary for young children.
James Bond series film Spectre was asked to remove kissing scenes by 50 percent, which drew universal criticism. Daniel Craig’s movie was one of the biggest blockbusters in 2015.