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CBFC set to become more liberal

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NEW DELHI: Even as it wants the government to approve a late-night slot for adult-rated films on satellite television, the Central Board of Film Certification has asked the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry) to amend the existing Cinematograph Act 1952 and introducing more certification categories such as UA-15 (nobody under 15 can watch the film) as opposed to the broader and the often-violated UA (universal viewing in the presence of an adult).

In a statement issued by eminent danseuse and CBFC Chairperson Leela Samson, members should be debarred from serving more than two consecutive terms.

The statement issued after a meeting with senior officials in the Ministry including Joint Secretary (Films) Raghvendra Singh, Samson said cine-literate members who have been recommended by the CBFC chairperson should be taken on the examining committee’s advisory panel, the first set of people that certifies films.

A Ministry official told indiantelevision.com that it would examine the recommendations and take an early decision as it was keen to move the amendments to the 1952 Act and has already placed a version of the amendments on the website of the Ministry.

However, the chances of any changes are unlikely in the immediate future since the election code may come into force and in any case the Government is keen to pass some anti-corruption bills in the coming session.

She said the CBFC delegation told the Ministry officials that the recommendations should be taken “seriously so that we can have more cinema savvy and informed people who view and certify films.”

Another recommendation is for organising workshops to guide new advisory panel members in the process of certification.

Samson said the aim of the meeting was to urge a more progressive attitude towards certifying films in India, moving away from the concept of censorship to that of certification.

She said the meeting had gone over “some radical recommendations” that were “likely to see far-reaching changes in the way films are certified” if accepted and implemented.

The immediate reason for the meeting – which was held even as the Ministry is giving a final shape to the amendments to the 2952 Act – appears to be the recent suggestions by new CBFC chief executive officer Rakesh Kumar for stricter censorship. This had led to several statements from different quarters and led to some tension between the Board and some conservative members of an examining committee.

“This Board has always interpreted certification guidelines in the most sensitive, liberal and progressive way, reflecting the rapidly maturing sensibilities of our audiences,” she said in the statement. “However, several roadblocks have prevented it from implementing this changed outlook. To resolve this situation, we have today given a list of recommendations to the Ministry.”

She said censorship must be replaced with certification, and the Board’s job is to give the film its appropriate certificate rather than suggest cuts.

Her opponents and some private litigants have filed public interest litigations in various courts against the Board and believe that CBFC must act as the custodian of public morality and must, if necessary, trim scenes of sex, violence, profanity and vulgarity.

Earlier, the Board had initiated a few measures to make the transition towards certification, such as organising state-level film orientation workshops and a festival titled Cut Uncut to discuss the history and ramifications of censorship.

Within the Board, the move towards certification, which is distinct from censorship, has resulted in the contentious decision to certify films with a UA or an Adults only certificate with either zero or minimal cuts. But this has led to some controversy.

Observers also said that a lot would depend on the government that will come into power after the elections as some members were political appointees. 

A spokesperson for the Film Federation of India said on phone from Mumbai that the industry was in favour of a more liberal form of certification, particularly in view of the new media.

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