A proposed change in the certification board film law may recall a film and revisiting its certification may have caused consternation in the film industry, but director Shyam Benegal believes there is nothing wrong with that. “If a film receives a certificate, it means it is forever,” he said in an interview. The changes will also give the government the power to restrict cinematic content – the influencing and constraining factors being India’s sovereignty and integrity, state security, friendly relations with foreign states, l public order, decency or morality or in matters of contempt of court, defamation or incitement to commit an offense. The proposed changes have led 1,400 filmmakers and artists, including Anurag Kashyap, Shabana Azmi and Farhan Akhtar, to write an open letter to the ministry to oppose this type of censorship. recommended limited competence for the certification board has a different point of view. Edited excerpts:
You have just read the new provisions of the Cinematograph Act. What are your first impressions ?
I think it’s good, there are no major problems. There were two reports (on this), one was the Mudgal committee report from 2013 and the other was an expert committee report that we did in 2016…. and I think there is not much of a difference. In fact, we will cooperate …
Some say they find it disturbing that an already certified film can be recalled. How do you feel about it?
Well, I think these things can happen. If a film receives a certificate, it does not mean that it is eternal. It is a certificate issued by the board of directors and when you talk about changing things you are talking about a changing world. So some things were valid at one time (in the past) and they may not be valid today.
So recalling movies (for another reviewer) isn’t a big deal. It is possible that 20 years from now, something (which is right today) may not be right for this time. It’s possible.
What happens after something comes out after being certified by the Censor Board and then there is some kind of outrage among the audience?
If you have that kind of outrage and if it’s popular – I mean if it’s popular outrage and not artificial awareness – those things can happen too.
But then, who decides when the outrage is serious enough to merit a reminder?
The point is, you have to accept that there is something called common sense. There is a certain type of convention followed in life that we consider to be well within our standards. Now (if) you go beyond that, naturally that’s going to be called into question.
For example, you have these streaming channels and TV, you have programs where you see people using four letter words like they use them every day. It doesn’t happen like that. People don’t always talk like that. Sometimes I am very shocked. But then you accept it because it’s in the privacy of your home.
The same cannot happen in a public place. The OTT platforms of which the streaming channels are a part are not publicly (broadcast).
There may be very little clarity on this. The point is, it depends on how you go about it and what you’re going to do about the sensitivities. Are you going to censor sensitivities? People have different sensitivities.
As long as this particular sensibility doesn’t become offensive in public discourse, it isn’t.
So in private discourse are you working to censor anything? Why would you do that? In the privacy of your home or the privacy in which you and your friends and acquaintances live, will you be censored (in what you watch)? Clearly no. It is common sense.
So 1,400 filmmakers wrote an open letter saying that this (amendment) makes them powerless. Do you disagree with them?
No it’s not that. It’s just that filmmakers deal with their audiences. In public speech, when you are dealing with people, there are certain things that you need to distinguish between, such as between private speech and public speech. What happens in the privacy of your home is not something the whole world needs to know; you have to distinguish between what is public and what is private. Even that is not so clearly defined. You know, if you tell a story, a family story, there are certain things even in a family story that are public and private. There are so many such factors. It is as if they are fading and fading.