Needed reforms

The Justice Mukul Mudgal committee which was appointed by the UPA government in the wake of the controversial ban on Kamal Hasan’s Vishwaroopam by the Tamil Nadu government in February early this year has made a number of welcome recommendations on film certification and other related issues.

The eight-member committee headed by Justice (Retired) Mudgal has a done a thorough job reviewing the Cinematograph Act of 1952 and presented the draft of a model cinematograph bill. Society, cinema and spectators’ view of it have changed a lot in the past many decades and the existing bill is unable to reflect or respond to them.  The Act was in fact a reworked version of a British era legislation. Rather than looking at cinema as an art or how the people related to it, its main focus was on how the government could manage or control it.

The committee has suggested that the power to ban films should be taken away from governments and instead a film certification appellate tribunal should be made responsible and empowered to handle complaints about films.  Governments have used  arguments based on perceived threats to law and order and sentiments of sections of people to frequently ban films. These decisions have also been taken on the basis of political, personal or other considerations. The committee wants film certification methods also to be changed.  It favours an age-based categorisation of movies, as it exists in many other countries, instead of the present A and U labels. There is a also a strong recommendation for changing the method of  selection of members of the screening panel. At present many of  them are not qualified enough for these positions.  The panel  has recommended that only those from the fields of art and culture or allied professions should be made members of the censor board.
The government had indicated that it would positively look forward to the report of the panel.  It has produced a good report in quick time.  But it is doubtful if the government  would accept the panel’s recommendation on the power to ban films, especially when law and order is a state subject.  But that and many other valuable recommendations made by the committee call for serious consideration and action. The members of the panel are experts with high credentials from film and related areas and their views should be taken seriously.

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