Shyam Benegal says Cinematograph Act is about Constitution, not the government

Shyam Benegal says Cinematograph Act is about Constitution, not the government

In an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai, Shyam Benegal talked about the proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act and that he feels it’s all about following the Indian Constitution.

The Centre’s draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill has brought differing views and opinions from the film industry. Director Shyam Benegal feels that it’s about following the constitution and protecting India’s sovereignty. In an exclusive interview with Rajdeep Sardesai for India Today India Tomorrow, he spoke about his views on the proposed amendments to Cinematograph Act.

In June, the Centre released a draft proposing to amend the Cinematograph Act of 1952 with provisions that will allow it to re-examine films that have been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Many actors and filmmakers including Anurag Kashyap, Farhan Akhtar and Kamal Haasan, among others, have written an open letter to the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, objecting to this.

Shyam Benegal, who headed a committee that reassessed the censorship process in 2016, however, feels nothing is going to change due to the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021.

Excerpts from the conversation:

ON CINEMATOGRAPH ACT AMENDMENTS

Actually, Section 5B(1) in the Cinematograph Act states that recall of a film by the government has to do with the sovereignty of the country and our relations with other countries of the world. I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that they can just call recall a film for reasons best known to them. After all, the CBFC has been set up by the state and it’s supposed to be autonomous. The people who have been chosen are not necessarily those who go by the attitudes or views of the government in power at that time. They represent the state. The whole idea of having a board of certification is supposed to be that it’s under the Constitution of the country. Therefore, what matters is the Constitution. If you are doing something unconstitutional, you have to pay for that. But, that’s a different case.

ON GOVERNMENT’S POWER OVER CINEMA

The whole idea of a pre-censor is that we have a Constitution and we need to see if the particular film is within its framework. You have no business in making something outside of the Constitution. The government is of the day. The government can change. We cannot have governments deciding all such matters, even it has to function according to the Constitution. CBFC works according to guidelines too. Every government will come with its own agenda and the CBFC cannot function according to who is in power at that time. There has to be something that is perennial, which for us filmmakers, is the constitution.

ON NEED FOR CHANGE IN CENSORSHIP LAWS

The system is perfectly fine. There is no need for anything else because it’s working. If it wasn’t, then it would be a different matter. People complain from time to time, but there is no popular demand for any kind of change. If it happened, it would be raised in the Parliament of India. Then they will have to decide and then make new laws or amendments.

News source: INDIA TODAY

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