Farhan Akhtar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Pahlaj react to Cinematograph Act amendments

Farhan Akhtar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Pahlaj react to Cinematograph Act amendments

The Centre has proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act of 1952 which will enable it to re-examine films already cleared by the CBFC. Farhan Akhtar, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Pahlaj Nihalani, among others, have opposed it.

Recently the Centre released the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021 to the general public for comments until July 2. The new draft proposes to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with provisions that will give the Centre revisionary powers and enable it to re-examine films already cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

The proposed revision explicitly indicates that the Central Government, if the situation so warranted, has the power to reverse the decision of the Board.

This proposed amendment did not go down well with many of the Indian film industry folks.

A group of actors and filmmakers, including Anurag Kashyap, Hansal Mehta, Shabana Azmi, Farhan Akhtar, and Dibakar Banerjee, have written an open letter to the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, against the government’s proposed amendments to the 1952 Cinematograph Act. They have stated that the move has the potential to “endanger freedom of expression and democratic dissent.”

Speaking exclusively to India Today, actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar said, “We have had a CBFC Board for about 50-55 years, and we respect them for who they are. We would prefer it if they could certify our films.”

Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who in 2016 was appointed as a member of the Shyam Benegal committee, to give recommendations to bring about reform in the CBFC, said, “In 2016 we took almost one year to re-assess the workings of the board, and we not only gave suggestions, but also gave them a detailed report on the changes that can be made and the implementation of the changes. We all stressed upon the fact that the Board should certify films, and not censor them, and gave them categories for certification as well.”

Meanwhile, the former Censor Chief, Pahlaj Nihalani did not welcome the new reforms, and said that I&B Ministry had not taken any suggestions from the Mudgal Committee in 2013, the 2016 Shyam Benegal Committee, nor the changes he proposed during his tenure, in the certification process. He said, “I had given a list of suggestions that we wanted to implement, in my two and a half years. Firstly, Cinematograph Act is very old, and should be changed to Digital Act, in view of the present digital era. We had even asked for the body to classify films as per certain criteria, such as age, sexual content and violence, we have given six ratings. G suitable for all ages, PG parental guidance recommended for children under 15 years of age, M mature, recommended for children above 15 years of age, MA mature accompanied, since the film may contain violence, offensive language, smoking and drinking scenes. R restricted to only adults above the age of 18, and lastly, RA Suitable for adults only above the age of 21.”

Vishal Bharadwaj took to social media to express his opinion and wrote, “New proposals on cinema censorship are wrong, unnecessary. Film board and courts are enough (sic).”

Kamal Haasan too voiced his concern, and wrote, “Cinema, media and the literati cannot afford to be the three iconic monkeys of India. Seeing, hearing and speaking of impending evil is the only medication against attempts to injure and debilitate democracy (sic).”

Interestingly this draft comes shortly after the Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal, which was the last point of appeal for filmmakers against the certificate granted, was abolished in April.

The new draft proposes to introduce age-based categorization and classification. Currently, films are certified into three categories – U, UA and A for adults.

The Ministry has added provisions to check film piracy – that will prohibit unauthorised recording, making it punishable offence.

And in conclusion, the draft proposes to certify films for the long haul. Currently a certificate issued by the CBFC is said to be valid only for 10 years.

News source: INDIA TODAY

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