Bollywood continues to be an interesting place, both on and off the screens. Even as the AIB controversy continues to simmer, a new one has emerged, what with Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani sending out a circular to all Regional Offices (ROs) at the Censors, listing words and phrases that he feels are objectionable, abusive and worthy of being deleted from films. The circular also directs all ROs to not allow the use of such words in ‘any category of certificate’ and mentions that the standard applied to even regional languages. While there are 36 English and Hindi references of banned cuss words, the list also orders deletion of ‘violence against women’, ‘double-meaning words’, use of word ‘Bombay’ and glorification of bloodshed.
‘Redundant. Ridiculous. Retarded. Regressive’ – This is how Sanjay Gupta reacts in a thunderous tone when quizzed about his views on the current issue.
And this is what pretty much sets the tone for what others in the B-Town have to be opine.
Says Hansal Mehta, “I am angry but not surprised. CBFC is not an autonomous body as the government would like us to believe. How can it be when the Board is handpicked by them and filled with loyalists rather than people with genuine credentials? I am not optimistic about any change as the new chief uses the outdated cinematograph act as a basis for his stupid directive. Instead of initiating the process of introducing a new act and fresh certification norms, he brandishes a rubbish, rotting act before us.”
This is exactly the reason why Anubhav Sinha believes that a dialogue could have led to a better solution, than a one sided diktat.
“The need of the hour is to have a democratic process where filmmakers are involved; you can’t have a diktat,” says Anubhav, “In case of a diktat, it becomes a very individual thought. As we know, the board itself has not been taken into confidence. At least the board’s voice needs to be heard before any such guidelines are issued. I am violently against any such notifications been made.”
However, there are few who believe that the problem lies somewhere else and not how it seems.
“First, censor board is redundant. Second, these lists have always been there. Three, we need to fight against regressive laws on Freedom of Speech,” reasons Vivek Agnihotri, “It doesn’t matter who is the chairman. Whoever steps in will be bound by guidelines which come from laws. So the need is to fight those laws. It’s like to fix bad traffic, will you change traffic laws or kill the RTO?”
While constitutional meaning indeed may be in need to be understood better, those handling the creative state of affairs believe that one can’t ignore the world around.
“Let’s understand that cinema is a reflection of society and a story is about characters living in that society. Some stories are okay for universal viewing and others for adult viewing. By saying that some elements of society cannot be portrayed on screen, you are taking away cinemas right to an authentic portrayal of society. The definition of that is a police state,” says Vikram Bhatt, “The freedom to show anything and everything that appears in society in its raw form is the freedom that is promised in a democracy. Everything else is misuse of power.”
It is the dictatorship element that has peeved filmmakers the most. Ratan Jain says, “Jab ‘I, me, myself’ element aa jaata hai toh problem hoti hai. Even the Prime Minister can’t say that I would do this or that. In any case, producers themselves know what has to be done. Apne yahan reasonably controlled filmein banti hain aur agar kuch chota-mota ho jaaye toh Censor ki baat maan bhi lete hain. Lekin aise blanket ban sensible nahi hai. For example, I personally don’t support AIB and all. Even in my own films I may not use abusive words. But then to each his own. It is a subjective call. You can’t have dictatorship.”
View – Suparn Verma, filmmaker
The last few years the Censor Board was finally giving signs that it is maturing. But since the time Pahlaj Nihalani has come in, it’s a completely new ball game. The man carries his politics into a government position, deciding to play moral guardian to a nation. Such imbecilic moves should be stopped ASAP! From wanting to censor adult content in A-rated films, he wants to censor posters. Next he will ask scripts to be censored before shooting. Is the government trying to tell us what to think and how to behave? It’s not their job! The film industry needs to unite and come together as one force and slam this move. Stop paying them entertainment tax till people like these back off! Even his own board members aren’t supporting him.”
Counterview – Dale Bhagwagar, Bollywood PR guru
The debate about censorship and freedom of speech can be endless, if we argue just for the sake of putting our personal point of views across, and do not delve into the law of the land. So let me draw your attention to what our constitution says:
According to Article 19 of the Indian constitution, Freedom of Speech comes with a sub-clause which says that freedom is only free when it doesn’t compromise the following: I. security of the State, II Friendly relations with foreign States, III Public order, IV Decency and morality, V Contempt of court, VI Defamation, VII Incitement to an offence, and VIII Sovereignty and integrity of India.
Going by that, the Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani, is very much in line with the constitution. When self-censorship does not work, censorship has to be enforced in order to maintain moral, cultural and ethical values and mutual respect amongst humankind. That’s where the Censor Board comes in. The debate should not be about censorship over freedom of speech, as much as it should be about values, decency and erosion of the fabric of society.