In a welcome move, the government is planning to make changes in the six decades-old cinematography law to tone up the functioning of the censor board, which has been at the centre of many controversies.
Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu says he is examining the recommendations made by Justice Mudgal committee and Benegal committee but right now he cannot give a timeline on bringing the measure in Parliament.
“Justice (Mukul) Mudgal committee and (Shyam) Benegal committee have made some important recommendations. I am examining them. At the end of the day, you have to implement those. I may have to make some changes in the law also. I am moving in that direction.
“I can’t give you any time frame because of the Winter session. I don’t think I will be able to complete this. My efforts will certainly be to take up the new legislation in the session thereafter,” he said.
Naidu says he has even sought the opinion of board members on the recommendations of the two committees as he believes they have an insider’s perspective on the problems.
“Recently, I called the secretary of the censor board. I told him that some important recommendations have been made. You sit among yourself and discuss. And come to some conclusion…
“I told him to study and get back. Government is open to making necessary changes… Cinematograph Act came in 1952 and film certification has to be done under that Act.”
Naidu, who took over the charge of the ministry about four months ago, says he is aware of the controversies surrounding the censor board and feels there should be some restraint from both the sides — Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and film industry.
“I am aware of certain controversies with regards to censor certificate issue and censor board. Controversies per se should have been avoided. People should not speak outside, both sides.
“Film industry is all about creative people and film production has to follow certain grammar. Certification procedures should take into account this grammar of cinema and its nuances. Both the board and producers and directors should work in a collaborative manner in the larger interest of this creative industry.
Naidu says there is also a feeling that some people speak for publicity and create controversies so that their films do well at the box office.
“But people who are in the authority should not give running commentary. You do your job. That’s all. If something is wrong, people can go to appellate authority and at the end of it one can go to judiciary also.
“We are examining the deficiencies in the current process of film certification and we will certainly endeavor to ensure that there are no controversies.”
To a question that censor board chief Pahlaj Nihalani complains that most of the board’s decisions are overturned by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), Naidu said it was only natural because the higher authority has been provided for the purpose.
He says the Cinematograph Act has provisions that film content should not be against interest of sovereignty, integrity and security of state. But while he respects freedom of expression, he is of the view that there should be proper regulation.
“Now somebody can say you should not have any of these powers. It is a free India… Dissent is acceptable, disintegration is not acceptable. There has to be some regulation everywhere but it should not be strangulation to kill the creative ideas of the artist or the writer.”
Naidu says there is a need to strike a balance when it comes film certification and that’s what the government is trying to do.
Film industry and Pahlaj Nihalani have been at the loggerheads since he was appointed to head the censor board in January 2015.
The CBFC and the industry locked horns over the censorship of “Udta Punjab”, “Aligarh” and “Jai Gangajal”. Nihalani was also criticised for shortening the length of a kissing scene in James Bond movie “Spectre” last year.