- Namrata Joshi
- Senior Journalist, PRESS24 NEWS Hindi
On June 18, 2021, the Narendra Modi government sought suggestions from the general public on the proposed amendments to the Cinematography Act. The proposed amendments to this Act, made in 1952, were to be suggested by July 2.
The generally divided film industry seems to be completely united in opposing these amendments.
The film industry has put forth its objections to the government regarding the amendments. One of the proposed amendments is getting more concern in the film industry.
According to this proposed amendment, on receipt of a complaint, the Censor Board certified films have been ‘recommended by canceling their certificate’.
The amendments were first opposed by young filmmakers, academic scholars and lawyers including Shilpi Gulati, Sahana Manjesh, Prateek Vats, Bhargava Rani and Mani Chander, but their campaign was supported by notables in the film industry as well. These include artists of all kinds, young and old.
Apart from Bollywood, the amendments are also being opposed in regional cinema. All this has got the support of theatre, arts and civil society as well as other professional sections of the society.
Politically, there may not have been much discussion about this in North India, but Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin has written a letter to the Central Government opposing these amendments.
organizations are protesting
The six major organizations of the film industry – Producers Guild of India (PGI), Indian Film and TV Producers Council (IFTPC), Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA), Western India Film Producers Association (WIFPA), Federation of Western India Cine Employees ( FWICE) and the Indian Film and Television Directors Association (IFTDA) are also involved in opposition to the proposed amendments. On most of the occasions these institutions do not oppose the government, but in this case all are opposing the amendments of the government.
The student unions of the country’s two top film institutes, The Film and Television Institute of India Pune and Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, have also issued a joint statement saying that the proposed amendment is an attempt to further curb the cinematic world. Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj and noted actor and politician Kamal Haasan have also written against these changes.
what are the reasons for the protest
It is not difficult to understand the reasons for the strong opposition to the government’s attempt to ‘super censorship’ through these amendments.
The proposed amendments are being seen as the ‘last nail in the coffin’ as Indian filmmakers are already forced to work in an environment of restrictions, threats and hostility, where they are unable to make full use of the right to freedom of expression.
Government took Uturn
The current government, after coming to power in 2014, had promised to provide a more liberal environment to the filmmakers, so the new move of the government is disappointing for the filmmakers.
By the way, the current central government kept the rate of GST low and uniform as per the wishes of the film industry. Not only this, this government formed a committee under the leadership of renowned filmmaker Shyam Benegal in 2016 to bring changes in the guidelines of Censor Board and Censorship.
But instead of moving forward in this direction, the government now seems to be taking a U-turn. That too at a time when the pressure of militant groups seems to be increasing on filmmakers even on petty issues.
In such a situation, the proposed resources will encourage the furious mob and they will start censorship of films at their level. In a way, this would be showing less to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), an autonomous body of the government.
These days OTT platforms have also provided filmmakers a chance to be creative in the story and the way it is told, but they too have started targeting them. Series like Tandav and Family Man have faced opposition. It is clear that there is a difference between what the government is saying and what it is doing.
grievance redressal body
In April this year, the government secretly abolished the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), the body of appeal and grievance redressal for filmmakers against the decisions of the Censor Board.
No consultation was done with any of the partners for this. Now the filmmakers are left with no option but to fight a long legal battle to challenge any decision of the censor board.
During the Corona epidemic, the film industry is facing financial crisis. Along with this, the manner in which some media networks covered the case of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, has also brought disrepute to the industry. The soft power image of India has also been damaged.
Bollywood’s top production houses, filmmakers, stars and industry bodies have taken the legal route on “irresponsible comments” by TV channels like Republic TV and Times Now.
The effect will be visible in the coming days
Many believe that the crackdown on Bollywood is in a way part of an elaborate plan to curb India’s cultural institutions.
Its long-term impact will be visible on the cinema to be made and seen in India in the coming days. The biggest danger is that the filmmakers themselves will want to avoid topics and issues on which there is a possibility of any kind of controversy, that is, a kind of self-censorship will be implemented.
Apart from this, the second fear is that due to increased curbs on content, there will not be much scope for films of subjects other than political propaganda and nationalism.
It is okay in every way to play Kartik Aaryan in Satyanarayan Vrat Katha, as long as he chooses to do so of his own free will. But if there is pressure on them to do so from the filmmaker or the audience, then this cannot be a right situation.
The most ‘sad thing’ of the proposed amendments is that it is an attempt to ‘openly childish’ both the filmmakers and the audience.
Those who make such an argument say that people above the age of 18 can choose the government, but they are not considered mature enough to watch the kind of films they want to see.
appellate trialIneed for baunal
The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) needs to be reactivated at this time. Apart from this, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) should be made an independent body away from government interference. The institution should act as a certification body and not as a censorship body.
It can be said that the suggestions for the new classification criteria in the amendments are good on paper, but when it comes to super censorship in the same amendments, it seems redundant.
there is a saying. Two swords cannot live in one sheath. Similarly, in the amendment of the Cinematography Act, one way will have to be chosen and the future of Indian cinema will depend on that choice.
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