Though freedom of expression, a fundamental right given under the Indian Constitution, is the mantra that drives many filmmakers to tell the story as they deem fit, the Censor Board demurs sometimes on the propriety of a film to be screened as is.
While there are guidelines for awarding certification to a film, these have been evolving with changes in society. For instance, making a community the butt of jokes that was sometimes seen in the films of yesteryear is a clear No-no today because of a different set of sensibilities.
Producer and the distributor Suresh Babu says, “There are always issues with censors, but they are all small. When I made Bobbili Raja film, I was asked to cut a scene in which the actress’s dress did not pass muster. Though the government has set rules on film certification, a lot depends on individuals. Four to five people watch a film, and if one of them feels that something in it will cause harm, he asks for the scene to be cut.”
Citing another example he recalls that his Telugu film Prathidwani released a few decades ago showed all the Gods in it. “We remade the film in Hindi, but some people objected, and we had to remove it,” he points out.
Jeevitha Rajasekhar, member, Central Censor Board says that the members follow rules to certify a film. “I agree that there is freedom of expression, but you can’t make a film that will harm society. When we build a house, we cook in the kitchen and bathe in bathroom, and not the other way round. Likewise when it comes to the cinema, the filmmaker must be responsible, and society too must behave,” Jeevitha argues.
Drawing parallel from the US, she says, “In the US, people are educated and behave responsibly, so they have a grading system. Children cannot go for a film with ‘A’ certification. In India, the parents go with their kids for an ‘A’-certified film and then abuse the theatre for not allowing kids, and then abuse the filmmaker for making adult content. So, society should also be more responsible.”
Referring to films on politics, Madhura Sridhar says, “Whichever government is in power, they never allow scenes that are written against it. Political issues are not new and are there throughout the world.” He further adds that the filmmakers should not exceed their limit in the name of freedom of expression. “Filmmakers should shoulder more responsibility because the impact of cinema on society is huge. The government should revise censor rules every five years,” Madhura feels.
Suresh Babu echoes his sentiments when it comes to political films. “An officer or member nominated to the censor board is associated to that political party and reflect their ideology when they pass a film,” he says.
Given the omnipresence of social media, anything wrong in a film becomes a huge issue. “So we have to be more careful, and at the same time, the filmmaker too must be more responsible,” adds Suresh Babu....